Welcome to the Ex-Official Blog of Writer, Presenter & Crafts Expert Momtaz Begum-Hossain which stopped being active on 31st August 2016.

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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Underwater Love: Design Features At Atlantis, The Palm Dubai (and my wee visit to the hotel!)

Me, blending in like a piece of the furniture at The Atlantis Palm Dubai
I love a good theme and I love water so a water themed hotel is bound to be my kind of place right? Atlantis, The Palm Hotel in Dubai is indeed that 'water themed' hotel but I had no idea it would also be such a creative destination. There are crafty touches in the design and décor everywhere you look, starting with this exquisite glass centrepiece in the entrance (made by Dale Chihuly the same artist who created the jaw-dropping Rotunda Chandelier the V&A Museum in London.) It consists of 3,000 handblown pieces of glass and measures 9.75m in height. The good news is you don't need to stay at the hotel to enjoy the art, so if you're ever in Dubai it's worth popping in just to admire the views...
Dome ceiling in the lobby with top view of the sculpture

Underwater themed painted ceiling in the hotel
Another painted ceiling in the hotel
And another one!
Sea urchin lampshade
So that's a taste of when you look up....when you look down, the floors are works of art too...
Then there are the giant prawns in the corners ...
and random features around the place like shell vases...

That's just some of the water themed décor touches, but what about water itself? Well there is no escaping 'The Element' and the 65,000 sea creatures that live within it at the hotel...
From my room (I was lucky enough to spend three nights at the hotel earlier this month) I could look down onto sting ray from my balcony, while around the hotel there is no escaping the sharks and giant leopard print sting rays swimming passed thanks to The Lost Chambers Aquarium that stretches throughout the hotel...
She's in fashion
If that's not enough, you can also dine next to fish at Ossiano underwater restaurant (I should point out it's a seafood restaurant so it's a bit strange eating fish while they are looking at you!)

Oi! Is that my cousin you're munching into?
Or if you have £8k spare you can sleep with sealife in one of the hotel's two dreamlike under water suites....
I don't mind if I do...
But if that's too overwhelming you could simply stick with visiting the aquarium and just watch the fish swim by for hours.
Who needs a telly? 
I spent one afternoon doing just that and spent my other two afternoons hopping from flume to flume at the hotel's Aquaventure Waterpark (which included going down one of the longest and scariest flumes in the world!)
Ahhhhhhhhhhh! Splash!
As well as a dip in the 'fake sea' that Dubai is known for
 I also had a dip in the pool...
This is the life!
...fed some stingray, and most exciting of all, got to hang out and swim with a dolphin called Tina at the hotel's Dolphin Bay. 
Holding on!
Could a hotel got more water themed? I think not! I went with little expectations (other than I hoped the flumes would be good and thankfully they were!) so it was a real pleasure to discover that I would love staying in the hotel so much. 
Should you visit Atlantis, The Palm Dubai? If you get a chance to then yes. If you can stay overnight then even better - there's just so much to enjoy and take in, from the surroundings to the little details, and so many people to talk to - staff are everywhere (especially around the waterpark) and they always at the ready to strike up a conversation.
This trip is going down as #funtimes : )
With my fellow travelling companions
Oh go on then! 
Here are some snaps of what I ate while I was there (I took so many photos that it would be a crime not to share them...be prepared you may get hungry!)

Delicious Chinese lunch with bubble tea at Yuan
Teatime at Plato's Tea and Coffee Lounge (over 120 teas to choose from!)

A mere snapshot of the 100 desserts on offer at Saffron buffet restaurant
Yummy global breakfast

Sipping a mocktail at Nasimi Beach Bar

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

East Shopping Centre: Europe's 1st Asian Shopping Mall

London, Leicester, Birmingham, Manchester, Bradford, Glasgow...all the major cities in the UK have got their Asian shopping hot spots but last weekend saw the official opening of the first ever Asian Shopping mall, not just in the UK, but the first of its kind in Europe. An Asian shopping mall I hear you cry, what's that? Well, literally it's an in-door shopping area that specialises in shops and facilities that cater to the South Asian audience - primarily this means Asian fashion stores but within the modest mall there's also a food court, souk style market, beauty parlour and wedding decor company. 
The centre officially opened to the public (after an initial soft opening), at 12pm on Saturday 14th March with a ribbon cutting ceremony by the local MP Lyn Brown followed by a stampede of eager shoppers.

East Shopping Centre is based in Green Street, east London which is already a major shopping hub for South Asian food and fashion. The centre is an addition to the existing area which at the moment consists of one long street. I've always been a fan of Green Street and wondered how the often characterless nature of a shopping mall could retain the vibrant, cultured flavour of the area, but thankfully a couple of hours spent smooching around to sample the shops and services and I can confidently say the centre has its appeal. Here's a peek at what's inside...


Green Street is a hub of asian clothes and fabric shops but the ones who have chosen to be part of the centre are in the more 'upmarket' end of the scale category. Stores are very boutiquey with some seriously shimmering outfits from well-known names such as Raishma (images above), Memsaab, Zarkan of London and Asian Bridal who have all gone to town with delightful shop front decor and mannequins kitted out in finery. 

There's also a souk area made up of market style shops though it's very much on the intimate side!


In the food court there's a coffee shop, mocktail and dessert bar and several eateries where you can pick up hot global cuisine. I had a chance to taste dishes from all the restaurants and for fast food I was very impressed with the choice and flavours and the fact the brands here are different to those found in mainstream shopping centres.
There are seats and tables but the space is small, a couple of extended families could easily fill it up. The Food Court will no doubt be successful but perhaps too much so I hope there's room for expansion!
Is it worth a trip to East Shopping Centre? I think it will attract new shoppers to Green Street, the rustic nature of the place doesn't appeal to everyone but an indoor centre is likely to make the area more accessible. For any non-Asians looking to buy Asian fashion I think they will feel more comfortable shopping here than having to try and navigate the high street, though hopefully once they've been inside they'll feel more inclined to explore further afield.

East Shopping Centre is light and airy, has ample toilet and refreshment facilities, good accessibility (walking distance from Upton Park tube station), has late opening and even has environment credentials including a flow restrictors to save water and solar panels. 

I'll definately be back, especially for another beautician appointment. It's incredibly hard to find decent beauticians and my usual has recently disappeared. I was on the look out for a new one and Karma London ticks the boxes - a wax followed by a bubble tea to curb the pain...I could get used to that!
Find out more about East Shopping Centre: www.eastshoppingcentre.com