Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Julie Campos Farmer doing yoga on the Umm Suqeim beach in Dubai

Julie Campos Farmer doing yoga on the Umm Suqeim beach in Dubai

If you are on the quest for any kind of luxury you can be sure your pursuit will end in Dubai. In this emirate of the UAE you just have to name it and you get it – of course it will come with a steep price stag.

For instance I wanted the luxury of attending an yoga session on the beach with a group under the aegis of an able instructor, enjoy the sunrise, feel the sound of the waves as I close my eyes in my yoga posture and then finish off the session with a dip in the sea. Not that I am some kind of a fitness freak or hardcore yoga enthusiast but the whole thought of a session like this filled my being with blissful energy.

I checked if this is possible in Dubai. It is. Some five star hotels offer sessions like this on their private beach for prices between Dhs80 and Dhs150 a session ($22/Rs 1,200 and $40/Rs2,250 per session). I wasn’t sure if I was ready to part with that kind of cash to bring to life my yoga-on-the beach fantasy.

Then I read in the magazine Aquarius that yoga instructor Julie Campos Farmer, through her organization Fields Of Yoga, offered such a class at the beach at Umm Suqeim 1 on Saturday mornings and, that too completely for free. I tried to read the fine print and thought there must be a catch somewhere, a donation expected maybe. Nevertheless I shot an email to the given address and got a warm reply from Julie herself asking me to join the next Saturday session and I very happily noticed that at the end of the email it was written:

Timings:  7:00-8:15am (please plan to arrive at least 5 min early)
What to Wear: comfortable clothes that will allow you to bend and stretch. Bring or wear a swim suit if you would like to join us for a swim after the practice.
What to bring: a bottle of water, a yoga mat and a towel
Rate: Free!

Yoga session in progress

Yoga session in progress

I have been to the Jumeirah Beach many times but never to this tiny tranquil patch at Umm Sequiem 1 next to the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club. As I stepped on to the beach the 7am-sun created a lovely warm hue on the inviting blue waves that met the azure of the sky in the horizon. I could spot the Burj Al Arab in the distance. The collective sight made me feel grateful to the bedside alarm clock, for a change.

Julie, a Yoga Alliance (200-HR RYT) certified teacher, who has done her training in Goa, greeted me with a warm smile and didn’t seem to be judgmental about my love handles. She gestured me to take a place at one of the mats that she had placed on the beach. The session had already started and she was instructing those attending the session with gusto.

Take it easy if you can't do a posture is what Julie says

Take it easy if you can’t do a posture is what Julie says

There were six other people in the class, five women and one man, who followed Julie’s moves with precision and the instructor on her part, did her level best to assist her students. My eyes kept drifting to the tranquil setting. I saw two men set off on a kayaking adventure oblivious to the yoga session in progress on the beach. Then I spotted the lone speedboat in the distance and a woman emerging from the sea in a bikini just like Ursula Andress. I closed my eyes and the sound of sea lapping on the shore filled my ears. I breathed a fulfilled sigh. I couldn’t believe I was getting all this for free.

The setting was absolutely tranquil

The setting was absolutely tranquil

Kayaking enthusiasts in the backdrop

Later when I asked Julie why she didn’t charge for this session she answered in her inimitable simplicity, “Dubai is a place where people are always pursuing wealth. I have a studio at home where I charge Dhs50 per session but I thought Sunrise Yoga is a great way of doing something worthwhile for which you don’t charge.”

Julie’s morning session is often attended by as many as 15-20 people. “I have regulars and first timers. My sessions are open to everyone – from a labourer to a well-placed person. I have had regulars, who have been on business trips and taken the taxi straight from the airport just to be in time for the session. I have had whole families trooping in with three generations in tow, and there have been women dragging along their unwilling boyfriends, who have later admitted that they enjoyed the session immensely.”

What about tourists? “This is a great way to explore Dubai,” says Julie adding, “I often get emails from tourists much before they land here telling me to book a place for them at my beach yoga session.”

Julie started Sunrise Yoga in January 2012 and apart from the summer break – which she will be taking after two weeks because it will get too hot to practise yoga in the open and she will be travelling to her home in California also – she is always the first to reach the beach and lay out the mats. “There have been days when I have had only one person attending the class. I am alright with that too. Actually the turnout depends a lot on how people have had their Friday nights,” she smiles.

Yoga reaches its crescendo when Julie does the headstand and asks us to try. I, of course, prefer to stand and watch while one of the enthusiasts, who has been doing yoga for 25 years, gives it a try with a bit of help from the instructor. The session ends with a prayer as Julie says, “Let’s thank god for giving us this lovely place to practise yoga, for giving us health.”

I did my own small prayer though, thanking god for bringing me this amazing experience, this luxury for FREE.

Here’s how Julie did the headstand:

Step 1

Step 1

Step 2

Step 2

Step 3

Step 3

To enjoy yoga on the beach email Julie at: fieldsofyoga@gmail.com

(Photographs: Amrita Mukherjee)

Finding my past in Muscat through Facebook.

Wadi Dayqah Dam in Quriyat

Wadi Dayqah Dam in Quriyat

When we were planning a trip to Muscat from Dubai one of my friends said, “If Dubai is Kolkata Muscat is Panskura. Or to put it in a more international parlance if Dubai is New York Muscat is a sleepy US suburb with nothing to do there. Definitely not a place for a holiday.”

But I wasn’t daunted. I had been to Musandam in Oman in 2007 and loved the fjords and the green sea, loved the dhow cruise with the dolphins swimming along and enjoyed the snorkelling experience. I was determined to check out Oman’s capital Muscat this time and these comparisons did not really matter to me. An added bonus was my desire to reconnect with three people.

One was Swati, who was my junior in Times of India and is settled in Muscat now, second was Sumita my friend from university. I had reconnected with both on FB. And third was Swati’s husband Rahul. My husband, Rahul and I had all started our lives together in Asian Age. Being the crime reporter he often took me to do crime stories with him, an experience that I probably wouldn’t have managed to acquire without him, because despite women joining journalism in hordes crime reporting is often considered a man’s forte even today.

Armed with these two desires – one to see Muscat and the other to reconnect with old friends we set out for the five-hour drive to Oman.

The drive itself was uplifting. As the silky sands of Dubai’s deserts made way for the rough yet ravishing Hajaar Mountains the topography changed from one place to another along with the elevation.

The road to Muscat

The road to Muscat

With the mountains in the backdrop Muscat looked like a city out of Arabian Nights. Most of the houses were painted white, were not beyond four-storeys tall and had an old-world-charm that instantly appealed to me. Swati and Rahul’s home, where we were putting up for our three-day trip, had the best views of the mountain and the city. Every time I looked out of the window I was invaded by a sense of calm and peace.

View from Rahul-Swati's home

View from Rahul-Swati’s home

A typical road in Muscat. Pix credit: Swati.

A typical road in Muscat. Pix credit: Swati.

Muscat wasn’t anything like Dubai that was for sure. But I liked it instantly. It had the best roads, well-stocked supermarkets, bustling eateries and a couple of nice malls. It was definitely not Panskura or for that matter a sleepy US suburb, where life never throbs.

I was keen to explore the natural beauty of Oman so we headed for the Wadi Dayqah Dam in Quriyat the next day. At the end of a lovely drive down a mountainous road a mesmerizing sight awaited us. The biggest dam in Oman is probably the most beautiful dam I have ever seen.

Wadi Dayqah Dam in Quriyat. An hour's drive from Muscat.

Wadi Dayqah Dam in Quriyat. An hour’s drive from Muscat.

The picnic spot next to the dam

The picnic spot next to the dam

The view from the dam

The view from the dam

And the long stretch of the virgin Quriyat beach was another beautiful sight. Apart from us, in the entire stretch of the beach there was only one Omani couple and a group of boys playing football in the distance. It felt like a world where nature still had its say.

Quriyat Beach

Quriyat Beach

Omani couple sitting together

Omani couple sitting together

With a three-year-old son in tow it was not possible to cover much especially when I had to keep his sleep time and eating schedule in mind. But still we managed to see the Matrah Corniche (the heart of old Muscat) and the lovely Qurum Beach and managed a word with god in Muscat’s famous Shiv Mandir.

Qurum Beach

Qurum Beach

Sunset at Qurum beach

Sunset at Qurum beach

And then it was my turn to meet my university pal Sumita who lives in a lovely villa opposite the Azaiba beach. I realized it’s nothing like connecting with old friends, nothing like marveling at our children hitting it off immediately and nothing like taking a collective look at our plumper selves, laughing about it and saying, “Did we ever imagine we will meet like this?”

For me Muscat wasn’t a holiday it was a journey. It was a realization that some people don’t change. Yes Rahul still has that laugh that was so famous in Asian Age. Swati is still that bubbly girl I knew at work only now she is also an efficient mom to a four-year-old son and a brilliant cook. And Sumita is still that bindaas girl I spent hours yapping with at University but now she has two wonderful daughters to have her conversations with.

As for me I think I am still the kind who believes in herself. That’s why I never believed Muscat is like Panskura and made the journey to this quaint city and came back with a bag full of memories.