Giant Puppet Parade

Every few weeks my boys read over Tribe Vibe, commenting on photos, reminiscing about things we have done or dreaming of future trips we might take, such as the Tanzania holiday. Last week, my eldest asked me why I had written about the carnival in Switzerland and not the Giant Puppet Parade in Siem Reap, an annual event in the spirit of carnival, we were lucky enough to participate in three years running. 

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The Giant Puppet Project is a community based arts project involving various local organizations. The puppets are made from rattan and paper, and the event is used as a platform to make people aware of Cambodia’s endangered and indigenous species. 

It creates an important sense of community building, establishes team work, gives hope, offers pride and commendation. The disadvantaged Cambodian children and expat kids thrive in the two full day workshop as they work hand in hand to create these pieces of art. One could not ask for a more beautiful setting of the workshop. A gorgeous pagoda in the middle of Siem Reap!

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The puppets range in size (10 to 30 meters) and are prepared in the ancient style of Chinese dragon puppets. Each puppet conveys strong cultural or environmental themes. 

Two weeks later, one is treated to a beautiful parade, a magical night of recognition by the town and tourists as the glowing puppets dance down Pub Street and through the town in the hands of their creators. Along the way, donations are collected for next year’s parade and you will see children eagerly dropping 100 riel notes into the collectors baskets, which perhaps is the best evidence that it is an event cherished by the local community as much as the tourists and expats. 

We feel blessed to have been part of it!

Fishing in Fujairah, UAE

Choosing a Sportfishing Charter in the UAE

Are you looking for a unique "Dubai" experience to try? Or maybe a special "day-out-with-dad" activity? Why not have a go at deep sea fishing on our beautiful Arabian Sea? On land, the weather is getting hotter by the day but the temperature at sea is still quite bearable. 

I thought this would be a super fun adventure for my husband and three boys but I had no idea how to execute it. With limited knowledge in the sport fishing arena, I went straight to the expert...Google. Not a lot came up on the internet to fill my criteria in Dubai so I broadened my search to a recommendation in Fujairah.  The most recommended company was Soolyman Sportfishing Charters. They offered two charters per day, boats carrying up to eight passengers, and they sold me on their water safety precautions. We would happily recommend this company to others.

The captains for the afternoon

The cost for the charter is by boat, not by person. So regardless if the boat is empty or full, it will be the same flat fee. The boat we used could hold up to eight passengers so my husband and boys joined with another family of four to minimize the cost and add to the fun of spending the afternoon together. This brought the price per person down to 300 AED each. A decent price for 4-5 hours of fishing on the sea.

What can you catch?

When booking the tour, my kids looked on the website to see what kinds of fish could be caught. Glorious photos of colorful fish were displayed, but the boys thought that these were probably  "one in a million catches." Boy were they wrong!  Each of them got a chance to reel in a fighting fish of various sizes. They also quickly learned how tiring it is to get the fish in the boat!

The guides were by the boys side from the moment a fish hit their line. Even, at times, physically holding the boys down so they didn't pop overboard trying to land their catch. They did a great job with the kids and made sure the entire day went smoothly.

All the kids left with a catch ranging from big to small (small only in size, not in fight.) The large fish were a little freaky to look at -  the kids thought they looked like prehistoric fish.

 One strange looking fish

One strange looking fish

To some degree, the kids had a few mixed feelings about catching and keeping the fish. They kept going to the cooler at the back of the boat to look at what they were bringing home. On one hand, it was super fun to try and reel in these huge fish but on the other it made them think about a creature dying. It was a good life lesson to learn about appreciating and understanding where your food comes from and the importance of not wasting it. Note: We ate all the fish that was caught (even though, near the end, none of us wanted anymore fish tacos.)

 Thinking about the fish they caught

Thinking about the fish they caught

What About Sea Sickness?

Was there a problem with sea sickness? Nope, not at all. The water was very calm and everyone seemed to have their sea legs with them. A good tip to help with queasiness and possible boredom is to bring a cooler of snacks with you. When there wasn't much action with the fish, the kids were looking for food and loving the soft drinks that were provided by Soolyman. And don't worry, the boat is equipped with bathroom facilities, which seemed to fascinate my youngest.

 Look! This boat has a bathroom!

Look! This boat has a bathroom!

More Than Fishing

Although the fishing was the obvious attraction, seeing the huge freight boats close up was something they didn't expect. Identifying where each ship was from, hearing how long it has been stationed near Fujairah, and waving at the crewmen way up on deck all sparked a lot of conversation.

Perhaps the true highlight from the sea was spotting a massive sea turtle swim by. Everyone was so lucky to see this rare sight and were so caught up in the moment they forgot to take a photo until it was almost too late. Spotting this turtle would have been worth the trip alone! (sorry for the horrible photo-use your imagination to picture the impressiveness of this creature.)

 Massive sea turtle

Massive sea turtle

Beautiful Sunsets at Sea

One of the many perks of living in the UAE is witnessing spectacular sunsets. Watching the sky turn a fiery orange and then transforming into night while being reflected on the glassy water, is a breathtaking image. When its time to leave Dubai, we will be thankful we took time for all these moments.

Breathtaking Arabian sunsets

Note:

  1. The drive from Dubai to Fujairah took about one and a half hours.
  2. All the fish caught were eaten. Nothing was wasted.
  3. Life vests were our own although the boat had their own on board.
  4. We brought our own food but drinks were provided.
  5. The fish were cleaned and filleted for us by the Soolyman guides

 

 

 

Cooking Club DXB volume 2

A Taste of Tanzania

My family recently traveled to Tanzania and loved every minute of it. One thing we all liked was the cuisine. So when my friend Hope (who is from Arusha) offered to show us how to make Makande and Mtori, I jumped at the chance.

(If you have ever thought about going to Tanzania or to Africa on safari, I cannot recommend Tanzania enough. Take a look at our safari blog post on Kilimanjaro, The Serengeti, The Nagorno Crater, and Tarangire National Park for inspiration.)

Cooking With a View

 Looking out onto the Arabian Sea. What a view!

Looking out onto the Arabian Sea. What a view!

Ok I admit it. We are spoiled with sunshine and unbelievable sea views living in the UAE. Our friend Hope is lucky to have this view as hers - every, single, day. I'll insert the "groan" here for everyone (and I was one for many many years) battling the winter far too long into what should be spring. But  "Khalas" this is the UAE."

 A beautiful pot of ginger tea was waiting for us

A beautiful pot of ginger tea was waiting for us

 

Making Makande

Makande is a very traditional Tanzanian dish consisting predominantly of maize (dried corn) and kidney beans. It is a hearty dish that clearly falls into the category of "soul food." When we were in Tanzania, our guide encouraged us to try Makande as it was one of his favourites and our three boys could not get enough.

Here's what to do.  First, all the beans and maize need to be sifted in order to discard the ones not worthy of this fabulous dish. Fully rinse them and leave them to soak overnight. We did not soak the beans and instead used a pressure cooker to rapid cook.  Because the pressure cooker is a little scary for many of us (me included), I suggest the soaking method. 

Now onto the painful job of preparing the vegetables.  This includes chopping onions and peppers as well as peeling, seeding, and dicing tomatoes. Once everything was ready, we put the tomatoes and onions in the frying pan with olive oil until tender.

With the tomatoes and onions now ready, we added the spices and coconut milk and mixed together with a hand blender until fairly smooth.

The tomato mixture was added to the beans and corn to simmer on low heat until the beans and corn were tender- approximately 45 mins. Just before the beans are ready, stir in the peppers and continue to simmer for a few minutes. Et voila, Makande! It can be served alone or over rice. Delicious!

Makande, traditional Tanzanian dish.

Recipe for Makande

  • 1 1/2 cup dried kidney beans
  • 1 1/2 cup maize
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1 hot chili pepper, chopped fine
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk

Instructions

  1. Soak dried beans and corn in water overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans and corn.
  3. Saute onions until tender.
  4. Add diced tomatoes and continue to cook until tender.
  5. Add the spices and remaining ingredients (except the salt)
  6. Blend with a hand blender until fairly smooth.
  7. Put beans and corn into a large heavy bottom pot and cover with water.
  8. Add blended tomatoes and onions.
  9. Simmer over low to medium heat until beans and maize are soft.
  10. A few minutes before serving, add the peppers. cook slightly, they should remain slightly crunchy.
  11. Add salt to taste.
  12. Serve as is or with rice and ENJOY!

Mtori

When visiting Tanzania, you will quickly find out, that bananas are a foundational food staple for many in the country.  Mtori is a banana based soup that I first tried in the foothills of Kilimanjaro. When I learned we would be eating "banana soup" I got a little nervous. Overripe, sweet bananas came to mind and I had no idea how I was going to be able to stomach this taste in oder to not offend anyone. My ignorance towards the different types of bananas and their preparation quickly became apparent when we tasted this delicious soup. Bananas used in Mtori are extremely unripe and taste more like potatoes. The soup was served with freshly squeezed limes and its deliciousness was obvious by the number of bowls our boys had. 

Above photos of bananas and Mtori we had in Tanzania.

The unripe bananas needed for Mtori are next to impossible to find in Dubai so it was a real treat to make and sample this dish with Hope (her friend who was visiting brought the bananas in her suitcase from Tanzania!)

First, small pieces of chicken (with bones) are boiled in a pot of water with salt and pepper. Use enough water that it allows you to have the needed broth to use as stock of the soup. Every once in awhile the froth from the pot is skimmed and discarded. Boil chicken until fully cooked.

Lots of chicken to make a perfect stock

Next came the lesson in peeling unripe bananas. No joke, this is a skill. Before you start, you must lather your hands in oil to prevent the banana from sticking to you. The bananas are then sliced down one of their seams so you can begin pulling back the peel. It doesn't give way easily and almost feels like you are peeling bark from a tree. Once finished, all the extra bits left on the bananas are then scraped off so that it is fully cleaned for use in the soup. Peeling those bananas is a real labour of love!

Hope fixing our bananas to make them not so "ugly" :-)

The next step was to remove the cooked chicken pieces from the broth so that the remaining liquid can be reduced with further boiling.  Chop the bananas and add them to the chicken stock. Add one chicken bullion cube and bring to a low boil. Simmer until the bananas are tender. With a hand blender, puree the soup. Add the chicken pieces back to the soup for serving. Ladle into bowls and serve as is or with freshly squeezed lime juice. Delicious!!

 Mtori soup does not taste like bananas at all

Mtori soup does not taste like bananas at all

Recipe for Mtori

Ingredients

  • 1 kg of chicken pieces with bones in (legs and wings are best)
  • Raw (unripe) Plantain bananas
  • Chicken bullion cube
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Put chicken pieces in a pot of water (enough water to cover all the chicken) and boil until cooked.
  2. Remove chicken from water.
  3. Continue to boil water chicken cooked in until reduced to a nice chicken broth.
  4. Peel bananas and chop
  5. Put bananas in chicken stock along with chicken bullion cube and continue to boil until bananas are tender.
  6. With a hand blender, blender soup until smooth.
  7. Add more water until the desired consistency.
  8. Add chicken pieces back to soup.
  9. erve with lime wedges.

 

The Best Part, Enjoying the Fruits of Our Labour

 Friends who eat together stay together!

Friends who eat together stay together!

More Than Cooking

Tanzania is famous for all of its vibrant colours. These colours shine through in the environment, food, clothing, and (what I loved) their artwork. One of the most well known forms is Tingatinga art. The name Tingatinga comes from the original painter of this style, Edward Said Tingatinga. The amateur style uses highly saturated pigments and is geared towards the tourist market, often representing tribal groups like the Maasai and the big five. While enjoying our delicious cuisine and endless conversation, we were also indulged with being surrounded by Hope's collection of Tingatinga art! What a great afternoon.


Croatia Family Vacation

If you are looking for a fabulous European vacation, Croatia should be on your list. It's perfect for all ages (we traveled with grandparents, parents, young children, tweens, and teens on our trip.) There was something for everyone! Below is a list of beautiful stops to make and inspiring eye candy photos. Click on the titles to be directed to our posts on Rovinj, Split, Mlini, Dubrovnik, Lokrum Island, Croatian Vineyards, and Plitvice Lakes. Go, you will love it!

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African Family Safari to Tanzania Overview

Has an African Safari been on your dream list of vacations to do? Not sure how to go about it? Where to go? What to expect? Should you bring your children? The only thing I can recommend to you is...GO! We chose Tanzania and it was an experience like nothing we could have imagined. Honestly, your senses will be on overdrive the whole time. Imagine a herd of elephants walking right in front of you, a lion hunting down its dinner, walking through lush forests, eating things like banana soup, and meeting local tribe people that you have only read about in books. For us, Tanzania was an experience that we will never forget. Below is our trip broken up by location, Kilimanjaro, The Serengeti, The Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire National Park. Click on the location name, have a read and take a look at the photos. I'm sure you are going to be inspired to go yourself. Do it!

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