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T R A V E L H A C K S 1 Six Things You Should Do Everytime You Travel

D E S T I N A T I O N S 3 The Taj Mahal: Trip of a Lifetime

E A T S 4 Nine Dishes to Try When in France

G R E E C E 5 Why Now Is a Good Time to Go to Greece

D U B A I 1 3 A Shopper’s Guide to Dubai

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six things you should do everytime you travel Whether or not you’re a seasoned world explorer, it’s surprisingly simple to travel likeone. So, what should you be doing on every single trip you take? Read on and take note.




Whether you’re traveling abroad or simply taking a road trip a few states over, it’s imperative that you talk to the people around you. Even if you’ve arrived somewhere with a crew, make a point to talk to the people seated next to you at restaurants, preparing you a drink at the bar, or those you run into on a hike. Give smiles to people around you. You never know what insider intel you’ll pick up on!


Don’t give legs to the “ugly American” stereotype. Before your trip, read up on essential phrases so you’re not clueless upon arrival. If you missed the study period, pick up a pocket dictionary at the airport and try it out - most people will appreciate your effort, even if you’re struggling. Learning a new language might be hard for you, but give it a try. It won’t cost you a thing and it’s worth every trip you make.

venture off the earth


It can be all too tempting to stay to the confines of your resort or only hit the top tourist sites in your plans. Always keeping safety in mind, challenge yourself to do something–anything!–that requires a little bit of digging. Do this by talking to locals (see previous point), asking your concierge for off-the-beaten-path recommendations, and starting your pre-trip research early! Early is always a good idea.


learn the language

challenge yourself

Eat something new. Try something that makes you scared. Resist the temptation to plan, plan, plan. Whatever your comfort zone is, push yourself outside of it - even if it’s just an inch or two. A truly great and memorable trip will teach you something about yourself - and may even change you a bit. The only way to do that is to shake things up. Try new things. Take some risks. Be adventurous. Have no fear!

explore around


Spend an entire day with no set plans aside from exploring a neighborhood intimately. Do so on foot or by biking, as this will give you optimal mobility and allow you to stop and go as you please. Don’t set time constraints, and allow yourself to amble about from morning until evening. You’ll be feeling like a local in no time!

get lost

Keep a diary. Take photos. Recap your days with your travelmates and stay Afford yourself every ability to look back on this trip and remember the most wondrous of details, big and small. Just be sure not to spend too much time on Instagram. Try to stay away from electronics as much as you can. You will miss out a lot of things!


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t h e ta j m a h a l : t r i p o f a lifetime A

first visit to Agra could easily trigger an attack of Agra-phobia. With its notorious sprawl and congestion, this north Indian city has, on the face of it, little to lure visitors... apart from what is arguably the world’s most famous building.

Lahan, the Mughal emperor who built it: “After burying me in such a beautiful place, I thought I would rest in peace, but the crowds have never left me alone.” The Taj Mahal has become a victim of its own perfection. But in the right light, it is magical, looming like a mirage through its main gateway. It seems to float, as though painted on gauze: pink at dawn and dusk, dazzling white at noon, pearly silver by moonlight.

The Taj Mahal may also be the world’s busiest tomb: up to 60,000 people a day pack into it. With all the bustle and the chatter, all the jostling for photographs and the tour guides blowing whistles to keep their groups together, it can feel more like a market than a mausoleum. There’s good reason for the sign urging simply: “Please keep quiet.”

It is many visitors’ first experience of India, often viewed as part of a “Golden Triangle” tour that takes in the great monuments of Delhi and Jaipur. These offer newcomers a taste of the exoticism they might expect from India.

An Indian poem encapsulates the problem. It imagines Mumtaz, whose death in childbirth inspired the building, saying to her husband Shah


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nine dishes to try when in france Whether you are planning a trip to France or practicing your culinary skills, you need to try these 9 traditional French dishes at once. Believe me, your life won’t stay the same!

french macarons

steak tartare


la tour cafe

la rotonde




confit de canard

chez janou





quiche lorraine

c o l o r o va pat i s s e r i e

le hide



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why now is a good time to go to greece 6

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By taking a trip to Greece, tourists obviously provide a much-needed boost to the country’s ailing economy. From island-hopping between locals’ hideouts to Athens’ thriving street art, here are our top tips for those planning their own memorable Greek experience. While speculations about an economic meltdown in Greece led to a fall in airfare and hotel bookings in early summer 2015, the travel industry has quickly started recovering and foreign visitors are returning, undeterred by the crisis. After all, the aquamarine coastline, sunbleached ruins, sumptuous Mediterranean cuisine and traditional festivities beckon, as inviting as ever. And you’ll find that the well-known hospitality has only been enhanced as the locals are all the more grateful to those who decided to give their Greek holiday a chance.

village saint – you can spend most nights at a panegyri, while exploring dozens of villages of this island Another good option, especially if you have your own wheels, is Lefkada, a Ionian island you can actually drive onto from the mainland along a narrow causeway. Wind your way around the western coast’s largely isolated beaches, which are some of most stunning in Greece, if not the world. Lefkada is also the place to go if you’re into some more challenging activities than beach bumming – thanks to strong winds, the island is a haunt of windsurfers and kitesurfers.

The ongoing crisis has led to greater availability on some of the lesser-known islands, a sad consequence of cancelled Greek holidays. For a quiet escape away from the international crowds you could consider taking inspiration from in-the-know locals.

The drop in visitor numbers also means that you might avoid the usual crowds and find good value for money on the most-hyped islands of the Cyclades. However, this won’t last for long as the austerity package for Greece means a tax hike for many goods and services, accompanied with the end of tax benefits for the islands. There’s probably no better time than right now to admire the sublime sunsets over Santorini’s caldera or get a taste of Mykonos’ glamorous nightlife. If you’ve already ticked these iconic experiences off your bucket list, an

One such destination is the beautiful and desolate Northeast Aegean island of Ikaria, which has long been a haunt for bohemian Athenians. August and September is the season of panegyria (night-long village festivals with plenty of food and wine and rave-like dancing to live folk music). Panegyri is the annual event celebrating the main


alternative is the far more remote-feeling Little Cyclades, connected by ferry to the port of Piraeus via Naxos. Koufonisia, in particular, is becoming fashionable among inthe-know visitors thanks to its superb beaches and chic restaurants, but still has plenty of low-key charm. With 2015 being one of the hottest years on record for southern Europe, the beach season can be expected to last until the end of September, especially on southern islands such as Rhodes in the Dodecanese or Crete. The latter is in a way a highlights reel of Greece, but one of the most enjoyable experiences has to be traversing its peaceful southern coast by boat, which is the only way to access some of the laid-back villages and secluded beaches. In southern Rhodes, don’t miss the wonderfully picturesque town of Lindos, whose sugarcube houses guarded by the hilltop Acropolis overlook a magnificent turquoise bay. Further ahead is the hiking season, when thousands take advantage of cooler temperatures and sunny weather to hit the trails both in mainland Greece and on the islands. An excellent destination for intrepid trekkers looking for a new challenge is the Peloponnese, where a major trail was completed in May 2015 by a group of volunteers. The well-signposted, 72.5km Menalon Trail ( stretches from Stemnitsa to Lagadhia, passing through the dramatic scenery of the Lousios Gorge, the western slopes of Mt Menalon, the Mylaon river valley and the Gortynian mountains. The trail is divided into

eight sections of varying difficulty, with the Stemnitsa– Dimitsana leg being the most popular. The main villages have places to stay and eat, and you can pick up provisions at others. Reward yourself later by visiting the Nemea wine region. These rolling hills southwest of Corinth are one of Greece’s premier wine-producing areas, known for its fine wines since Mycenaean times. Half a dozen wineries provide tastings for visitors (many free, some by appointment); the best spots for a tipple include Lafkiotis (, Skouras ( and Domaine Spiropoulos ( wineries. A unique way to get under the skin of Greece’s capital, as well as a fascinating insight into the Athenians’ take on everything from philosophy to current events, is exploring the city’s thriving street-art scene. You can go on a guided tour – a recommended company is Alternative Athens, whose tours are experience-based and take you off the beaten (urban) path. Or simply hit the streets on your own and head straight to Exarhia: behind the gritty facade you’ll discover one of Athens’ most vibrant, unconventional neighbourhoods, where creative graffiti cover walls, alleys and stairways and often carry strong social and political messages. Start at the Strefi Hill end of Themistokleous. These graffiti art are marvelous and you won’t be able to find the same street art anywhere else in the world, but only here in Greece.

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Also in the capital, a new stop for foodies is the Museum of Greek Gastronomy (, opened in 2014 just around the corner from the city’s famous markets. This culinary centre hosts rotating exhibitions highlighting an aspect of Greece’s rich gastronomic history (for example, organic monastery food or traditions of Macedonia). Its restaurant serves creative dishes on the same theme, and the shop sells related goods, such as monastery-made jam or Macedonian honey. There are also occasional cooking classes and parties.


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A SHOPPER’S GUIDE TO DUBAI Dubai loves to shop. The city has just about perfected the art of the mall, which is the de facto air-conditioned ‘town commons’, the place to go with the family, hang out with friends and take in some entertainment. So what kind of goods should you look for?

But before we go shopping, just a quick note. When people talk about Dubai being tax-free, they’re referring to personal income tax on wages. There are, however, import duties. If you’re shopping for mid- and low-cost goods, depending on your home currency, you may not see much difference. But you will notice the difference on luxury goods. If you’re in the market for, say, a new Rolex, you’ll save a bundle in Dubai. Otherwise don’t be lulled by the tax-free promise!

Dubai is a carpet lover’s paradise. Fine Persian carpets, colourful Turkish and Kurdish kilims, and rough-knotted Bedouin rugs are all widely available. Dubai has a reputation in the region for having the highest-quality carpets at the best prices. Bargaining is the norm. A rug’s quality depends entirely on how the wool was processed. It doesn’t matter if the rug was hand-knotted if the wool is lousy. The best comes from sheep at high altitudes, which produce impenetrably thick, long-staple fleece, heavy with lanolin. No acids should ever be applied; otherwise the lanolin washes away. Lanolin yields naturally stain-resistant, lustrous fibre that doesn’t shed. The dye should be vegetal-based pigment. This guarantees saturated, rich colour tones with a depth and vibrancy unattainable with chemicals. The dyed wool is hand-spun into thread, which by nature has occasional lumps and challenges the craftsmanship of the weavers, forcing them to compensate for the lumps by occasionally changing the shape, size or position of a knot. These subtle variations in a finished carpet’s pattern – visible only upon close inspection – give the carpet its character, and actually make the rug more valuable. Dealers will hype knot density, weave quality and country of origin, but really, they don’t matter. The crucial thing to find out is how the wool was treated. A rug made with acid-treated wool will never look as good as it did the day you bought it. Conversely, a properly made rug will grow more lustrous in colour over time and will last centuries. Here’s a quick test. Stand atop the rug with rubber-soled shoes and do the twist. Grind the fibres underfoot. If they shed, it’s lousy wool. You can also spill water onto the rug. See how fast it absorbs. Ideally it should puddle for an instant, indicating a high presence of lanolin. Best of all, red wine will not stain lanolin-rich wool. Look through books before you leave home to get a sense of what you like. Once in the stores, plan to linger long with dealers, slowly sipping tea while they unfurl dozens of carpets. The process is great fun. Just don’t get too enthusiastic or the dealer won’t as readily bargain.

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Visit the Al-Ain camel market or the bullfights at Fujairah and you’ll see old Emirati men wearing khanjars (traditional curved daggers) over their dishdashas (men’s shirt-dresses). Traditionally, khanjar handles were made from rhino horn; today, they are often made of wood. Regular khanjars have two rings where the belt is attached, and their scabbards are decorated with thin silver wire. The intricacy of the wire-thread pattern and its workmanship determine value.

top perfumiers do to neutralise their olfactory palate: close your mouth and make three forceful exhalations through your nose. Blast the air hard, in short bursts, using your diaphragm. Fakes are found all over the world, but in Dubai you’ll find bargains on real, silky-soft 100% pashmina shawls. Women around the world adore pashminas, those feather-light cashmere shawls worn by the Middle East’s bestdressed ladies. If you’re shopping for a girlfriend or your mother, you can never go wrong with a pashmina. They come in hundreds of colours and styles, some beaded and embroidered, others with pompom edging – you’ll have no trouble finding one you like.

Sayidi khanjars have five rings and are often covered entirely in silver sheet, with little or no wire, and their quality is assessed by weight and craftsmanship. A khanjar ought to feel heavy when you pick it up. Don’t believe anyone who tells you a specific khanjar is ‘very old’ – few will be more than 30 to 40 years old.

But aside from setting it alight to make sure it doesn’t melt (as polyester does), how can you be sure it’s real? Here’s the trick. Hold the fabric at its corner. Loop your index finger around it and squeeze hard. Now pull the fabric through. If it’s polyester, it won’t budge. If it’s cashmere, it’ll pull through – though the friction may give you a mild case of rope burn. Try it at home with a thin piece of polyester before you hit the shops.

No tax means French brands are cheaper than in Paris, but check the packaging to make sure they’re authentic. With Arabian attars (perfumes) you can be confident no other woman in the room will be wearing the same scent. Shopping for perfume can wear out your sense of smell. If you’re in the market for Arabian scents, do what


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The de rigeur gift for any proper gourmet, Bateel dates are the ultimate luxury food of Arabia. At first glance, Bateel looks like a jewellery store, with polished-glass display cases and halogen pin spots illuminating the goods. A closer look reveals perfectly aligned pyramids of dates – thousands of them. Bateel plays to its audience with gorgeous packaging that might leave the recipient of your gift expecting gold or silver within: the fancy boxes of lacquered hardwood are worth far more than their contents. Alas, they’re manufactured in China, but not the dates. These come from Saudi Arabia, which has the ideal growing conditions: sandy, alkaline soil and extreme heat. Quality control is tight: Bateel has its own farms and production equipment. The dates sold here are big and fat, with gooey-moist centers.

Happiness is shopping at Spinneys, Carrefour and Choithram – the shelves are positively packed with international foodstuffs. Here are a few favourites. 1. Cardamon-flavoured condensed milk. Worth weighing down the luggage for, this provides a taste of Arabia when you return home. Great in coffee. 2. Natco rose syrup. Wow your dinner-party guests by pouring rose syrup over sorbet or vanilla ice cream. 3. Saffron. You won’t find cheaper back home. Soak it in hot cooking water or broth to extract its aroma before adding it to the pot. 4. Zaatar and sumac

Because they have a 70% sugar content, dates technically have unlimited shelf life, but you’ll find they taste best around the autumn harvest. If agwa dates are available during your visit, buy them – you may not have another opportunity. Agwa trees only yield every few years, so they’re considered a delicacy. Look for them in September; other varieties arrive in November.

Add zaatar (a blend of thyme, sesame, marjoram and oregano) to your soups, salads or stews; add sumac (a spice with a lemony taste that’s added to salads, hummus, kebabs and other Middle Eastern dishes) and lemon to a chopped salad to remind you of some of the fabulous Lebanese meals you ate in Dubai.


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