Adventure, Musings, Travel

Chasing Shams

I arrived home from work this afternoon with a throbbing migraine and pretty much puked my entire lunch out. I have gotten used to my erratic working hours and I’ve survived a few months of health so naturally today’s lack of productivity and day spent in bed came as a shock to me. I guess this is God’s way of telling me “Guuurrlll you’ve been so healthy and too happy here’s me reminding you life is short and unpredictable!”

Anyhoos, I got back from a short five-day trip to Cambodia with my good friend Nani last Thursday. It was pretty much a random trip we decided to go on. Besides, I could not have started November if I had not gone for the trip. Wedding season is back and I’m about to go crazy. As much as everyone else is off for their year-end holidays, I’m going to be stuck in sunny Singapura for the next five months. But I ain’t complaining. Come April 2015, another adventure awaits!

Nani and I enjoyed Siam Reap very much. It was laid back, chill and filled with loads of fun activities. The sunrise and sunset at Angkor Wat were beautiful. Gorgeous. Beyond amazing, I think. Perhaps it’s because I was on vacation that the sunrise looked extra beautiful. I mean, I would not have been bothered to wake up at 4am in Singapura to catch the sunrise. Unless… well unless someone dragged me.

You know, adulthood is biting me in the butt, especially when it comes to emotions. Matters of the heart is a painful thing to deal with as an adult. You win some, you lose some. Then there are major decisions you make in your life that determine pretty much the rest of your adult life. One wrong move and you’re out, sista. I really suck at blogging now but I think my photos are getting better. Meh. Enjoy them.

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Sunrise at Angkor Wat

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What is life?

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Food, Recipes from the Heart

Sambal Belado

 

When it comes to food, my family would know best. I grew up with home cooked meals made with love by my mother and nanny. I would often come home from school being able to smell whatever my mother was cooking a level away from home. It still puzzles my mum how I can detect what she was cooking just from smelling the beautiful aromas of onion, garlic and a plethora of spices. I might have picked up cat genes from hanging out too much with my three furballs.

Sambal belado is a typical Minang sambal served often with fried fish or fried chicken. It’s something I would consider a cross between a chutney and a salsa – except that this sambal is not for the faint hearted. The combination of spicy, sweet, salty and sour creates a burst of umami flavours in your mouth. Well, to me that is what makes a sambal really syiok. I really hate it when I eat sambals that only look red but aren’t potent enough for my tastebuds. My mother thinks my tastebuds have gone haywire because my tolerance for spiciness is beyond crazy.

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The anatomy of a sambal.

Three weeks ago, my mother left for a holiday Down Under. I was left home alone with my cats. I thought I would rejoice at the thought of freedom and independence, but apparently my appetite and tastebuds were screaming for my mother. Missing Malay food – not wait – missing Malay food cooked by my mum proved that I was actually missing her. I rarely eat Malay food when I’m eating out unless there isn’t a choice. So I woke up one morning with a huge craving for ayam belado only to find out that the stash my mum freezes were all gone. I had no where to go. I had to pluck up the courage and cook myself some sambal belado. After cross-referring to a few recipes online and a god-sent phone call from my mother, this is my take on her famous sambal belado.

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Ayam Goreng Sambal Belado

Ingredients:

500g fresh red chillies

200g fresh red bird’s eye chillies

2 medium sized red onions

1 bulb of garlic

1 inch of fresh ginger

2 stalks of lemongrass

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

Method:

  1. Wash and cute both types of chillies into chunks.
  2. In a food processor, blitz the chillies coarsely. You want them to be roughly chopped. Set aside.
  3. Peel and wash red onions. Blitz the onions in the food processor. Again, you want them to be roughly chopped. Set aside.
  4. Peel garlic and ginger. Cut them into chunks and blitz them into a fine paste using a food processor. You may add a bit of water into the mixture so that it blends into a smooth paste.
  5. In a wok, heat oil on a medium heat.
  6. Sauté roughly chopped onions until fragrant. Add in ginger and garlic paste and sauté until it has thicken a bit.
  7. Add in chillies and lemongrass and continue to fry.
  8. Add in salt, lemon juice and sugar and continue to fry until the sambal has thicken and the oil starts to get red. This pecah minyak process would take about 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. Do not leave the sambal unattended. Continue stir occasionally until it is cooked.
  10. Serve with freshly fried chicken or fish on a bed of white rice.
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Food, Recipes from the Heart

Ondeh-Ondeh Cupcakes

Lately, there has been a craze for kampung cupcakes in Singapore. Furthermore, since Halalfoodhunt has been running for the past six months, people have been coming to me to ask for such kampung cupcake recipes. Alright, let pause for a while and allow me to explain what kampung cupcakes are.

Kampung cupcakes are cupcakes inspired by flavours of traditional Malay kuih such as ondeh-ondeh, kuih talam, putri salad and many more.

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When I first discovered about kampung cupcakes, I was apprehensive about making them. As much as I appear to be modern and all, I still love my traditional Malay kuih the way they are. Then, I succumbed to peer pressure and relented. I had to try making this ondeh-ondeh cupcake, especially since Fluffbakery keeps having their sold out. I totally winged this recipe. I made minor adjustments to a vanilla cupcake recipe, and basically followed my gut. So before I forget the recipe (I have a habit of not taking note of my recipes), here it is.

Feedback from my friends is that the taste of coconut is not overpowering, and the infusion of gula melaka and real pandan extract makes you forget you’re eating a cupcake. I hope this recipe will work fine for you!

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Ondeh-Ondeh Cupcake

makes 12 cupcakes

Real Pandan Extract

1 huge bunch of pandan leaves, cut into smaller pieces

1/2 cup water

  • Blend the pandan leaves and water together in a blender.
  • Strain the pandan juice through a fine sieve, or a cheesecloth if you prefer.
  • Squeeze out as much juice as you possibly can.

Pandan Cupcake

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cups caster sugar

125g unsalted butter at room temperature

2 tablespoons real pandan extract

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg.
  2. Sieve flour, baking powder and salt through a fine sieve. Set aside.
  3. Beat butter and sugar together until white and fluffy.
  4. Add in eggs, one at a time.
  5. Add flour mixture, alternating with milk and the pandan extract.
  6. Scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl and beat for another minute or two until the batter is well incorporated.
  7. Divide the batter equally into a muffin tin that has been lined with cupcake liners.
  8. Bake in the oven for 15 to 17 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  9. Ensure that the cupcakes are cooled down to room temperature before you core and fill them.

Pandan gula melaka filling

200g gula melaka, cut into smaller pieces

150ml water

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

  1. In a pan, add the water to the gula melaka and let it simmer on the stove for about 10 minutes, or until all the sugar has been dissolved and the sugar solution thickens.
  2. Let cool to room temperature before adding the desiccated coconut and mix it well.

Coconut Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 cup desiccated coconut

  1. Beat whipping cream with sugar and vanilla on medium high until stiff peaks.
  2. Gently fold in the desiccated coconut into the cream.
  3. To assemble, core the cupcakes, then fill in with the filling and pipe the coconut whip cream on top as desired.
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Food, Recipes from the Heart

The Perfect New York Cheesecake

I’ve made a few cheesecakes in my life. Some of them dry and heavy, others too sweet and tangy. Yesterday, I made the perfect New York Cheesecake. It came out with a beautiful flat top, no cracks and a perfect height for my liking. I was almost in tears.

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I realised the secret was a lot of patience. All in all, a cheesecake is very easy to make. It is how you bake it that makes a difference. I’ve tried making cheesecakes with and without a water bath, and at different temperatures. After watching a few YouTube videos, I finally found the perfect method. I was jittery throughout the 2 hours the cake was in the oven so I had to force myself to keep calm and watch an episode or two of Orange is the New Black on my laptop. But trust me. It was worth it.

This is probably the only recipe I know by hard because it’s actually my sister’s recipe. Hehe perks of being bullied into helping them I suppose.

New York Cheesecake

200g chocolate digestives (I used the ones from Marks and Spencers)

80g melted butter

3 packs of Philadelphia cream cheese (softened to room temperature)

200ml Bulla Premium Sour Cream (you can use light sour cream too)

1 cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

juice from half a lemon

3 eggs

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line the bottom of an 8-inch spring form pan with parchment paper.
  2. Blitz the digestives in a food processor. Add the melted butter and mix well. Press the biscuit base into the base of the spring-form pan to form a crust of about 1 centimetres. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
  3. Using a mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar till fluffy, for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add in vanilla essence and lemon juice.
  4. Gradually add eggs, one at a time and be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to mix everything well.
  5. Add in sour cream and give the batter one last mix.
  6. Before pouring the batter into the spring form pan, wrap the bottom of the pan with aluminium foil. This will prevent any leakages or any water from the water bath leaking into the pan.
  7. Place the spring form pan in a bigger baking pan. Fill the bigger pan with hot water.
  8. Pour the cheesecake batter into the spring form pan. Make the top as neat and smooth as possible. Cover the top with a piece of aluminium foil.
  9. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees for an hour. After an hour, continue to bake but remove the aluminium foil on top. Bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the top has a nice brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  10. DO NOT TAKE THE CAKE OUT OF THE OVEN. Switch off the oven, and leave the door of your oven slightly ajar by placing a wooden spoon to keep it open. Leave it in the oven for another 45 minutes. This will prevent the cake from cracking due to the sudden change in temperature.
  11. Take the cake out and remove from water bath and let it cool for another 2 hours before placing in the fridge overnight.
  12. Cake is best served chill with coffee on the side. Enjoy!
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Food, Love, Musings, Recipes from the Heart

Beef Stew with Focaccia

It’s day 9 of Ramadhan and somehow I’ve taken over my mum’s kitchen for good. I’m enjoying this gap year very much – taking photos, cooking, experimenting with new recipes, traveling – basically doing a lot of what I love. I’ve lasted seven months of freelancing thus far and life seems great right now. Alhamdulillah, the doors of rizq (wealth/earnings – there doesn’t seem to be an apt English word for it) are always open. I cannot thank Him enough for His bountiful blessings on me and my family.

I have been cooking a lot this Ramadhan, except for the days I am forced to iftar outside, I’m practically in the kitchen. It helps that HalalFoodHunt lets me hone my photography skills and develop recipes from the comforts of my home. If you’re wondering what this HalalFoodHunt is, click on it and check it out. You won’t regret it, well, unless you’re still fasting at this time of the day ’cause all you’ll see are food, food and more food.

This is my first time making this stew, and I’m pretty stoked by the results. I read up on a few recipes, mainly Jamie Oliver’s, Nigella as well as At Home with Magnolia Bakery. Since I’ve been under-utilizing my cookbooks, I forced myself to use the one from Magnolia Bakery. I altered the recipe here and there in terms of method but the ingredients are pretty much the same. The recipe calls for red wine but for obvious reasons, I switched it with chicken stock instead. I served the stew with some homemade focaccia bread and they were a hit with my mum and brother. Speaking of which, I think I’ll put up the recipe for the focaccia up soon.

Beef Stew (Adapted from At Home with Magnolia)

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Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil

One large red onion, diced

Three shallots, finely sliced

Half a knob of garlic, chopped

300g premium beef, cubed

2 heap tablespoons of plain flour

1 tablespoon of paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

One carrot, diced

One celery stick, diced

One can of chopped pomodoro tomatoes

One tablespoon tomato paste

One cube of chicken stock

Three medium sized russet potatoes, cut into chunks

 

Method:

  1. In a deep pot, heat up oil on a medium heat.
  2. Sautee onion and shallots till fragrant. Add in garlic.
  3. In a bowl, rub in flour, paprika, salt and pepper with the meat. Ensure all of the meat is coated.
  4. Add in the meat with all of the remaining flour mixture into the pot. Fry all sides of the meat.
  5. After the meat has browned, add in carrots and celery, and mix well.
  6. Add in tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock, and 2 cups of water into the pot.
  7. Simmer on low heat for 2 hours, remember to stir constantly.
  8. Add in potatoes and continue to cook for another half and hour, stirring every now and then.
  9. Serve with bread or on a bed of rice.

 

 

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Food, Recipes from the Heart

Kopi and Ondeh-Ondeh on a Sunday Afternoon

I went for a paintball session with some of my friends yesterday morning and somehow the paintball pellets remind me of ondeh-ondeh. Naturally, I had a sudden craving for them. I’m starting to like making traditional Malay food and sweets. As much as they are very tiring and troublesome to make, I realised that if I don’t start archiving traditional Malay recipes, I might not have anywhere to refer to. Okay there’s probably a lot of Malay cookbooks out there but for some reason I’m not motivated to make them unless I have a huge craving for them. My mother has been bugging me to learn her recipes because she fears the day she turns senile (god forbid) I wouldn’t be able to cook any of her specialties.

“Jangan nanti bila aku dah nyanyok, kau tak tahu masak rendang, roti boyan ni semua. Habislah menangis aku dua puluh empat jam!”

She pretty much worries for her stomach and tastebuds rather than her health as she get older. Oh mother.

So this was a simple afternoon tea snack we had yesterday. Little green balls of goodness.
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Ondeh-Ondeh

250g glutinous rice flour

200ml pandan juice (I extracted the juice from about 13 pandan leaves)

1 teaspoon salt

150g gula melaka

100g desiccated coconut

  1. Combine glutinous rice flour, salt and pandan juice together in a bowl
  2. Knead until dough comes together and is malleable. Add more water if necessary.
  3. Divide the dough into small balls.
  4. Cut gula melaka into small cubes.
  5. Roll the small balls and flatten them. Place gula melaka in the flattened dough and roll the dough back into balls.
  6. Repeat until you finish the dough.
  7. Boil salted water and drop the ondeh-ondeh into the pot. Cook for about 5-6 minutes before picking them out.
  8. Strain the balls before rolling them onto the desiccated coconuts.
  9. Serve!
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Uncategorized

Honey Apple Salad with Feta Cheese

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Ramadhan is around the corner and I know how difficult it is to soothe your palette after a whole day of fasting. You want everything you see on your instagram feed and you buy every single fried delicacy you see at the Ramadhan bazaar. Truth is, you will end up weighing more after Ramadhan, thanks to the endless food choices available.

Allah Says in the Holy Quran Chapter 7 Surah Aaraaf verse 31:

O children of Adam! Attend to your embellishments at every time of prayer, and eat and drink and be not extravagant; surely He does not love the extravagant.

On another note, be conscious to eat healthy while fasting. We only get to eat during the night but that doesn’t mean stuffing ourselves silly with junk. Here is one of my favorite salad recipes that will refresh your mind the minute it is time to break fast.

Honey Apple Salad with Feta Cheese

250g mixed salad (choose the ones with a mix of greens and reds)
1 gala apple
250g feta cheese
200g cherry tomatoes on the vine
Juice of one lemon
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper in a mason or jam jar.
2. Cover with lid and shake the jar till everything combines well. Set aside.
3. In a big bowl, pour all the contents of your salad mix.
4. Cut apple into half, then slice them thinly. Add into the big bowl of salads.
5. Pour the salad dressing into the bowl of greens and mix them well.
6. Cut feta cheese into cubes.
7. Plate the salad on a big plate or bowl, and serve as suggested.

With that, enjoy eating more greens and have a blessed Ramadhan ahead!

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Adventure, Travel

Part 3: I Left My Heart in Morocco

It all started with a Facebook message from a Moroccan guy. Such an exotic character, tall, a face full of stubble and eyes so captivating – who could resist such charm coupled with charisma fitting of the face? I was wary, but photos of his travels to Asia got me interested. He knew so much about the Asian region. I figured it would only be fair to him if I started reading up on Northern Africa.

A month later, I decided to travel Europe alone, but I knew I had to fit Morocco into the itinerary. Every travel forum and discussion group I read sang high praises for Morocco – the beautiful sand and sea, the mysterious deserts, the bustling souqs[1] and the famed Atlas Mountains. The appeal of what Morocco had to offer surpassed the appeal of the young gentleman who intrigued me in the first place.

The next thing I knew, I was on a flight out to Casablanca. A whole entourage of close family and friends had sent me off, knowing that I would be gone for a month. My family and friends were used to me traveling, but this was the first time I would be away for such a long time, and on top of that, traveling solo.

While my mother worried about me bring home a boy, my best friend worried about me not coming home at all. After all, I had just left my job. With no commitments back home, I could have easily gone on a traveling spree for a few months but I chose to focus on the traveling, and see if I liked the life of a nomad.

About sixteen hours later, with a two-hour layover in Doha, I arrived in Casablanca, the economic capital of Morocco. I was greeted with cold winds and sprinkles of rain in my face. My seven am flight battled through an early Sunday morning rain. No wonder I could not see much of the country while looking out the window. As I stepped a foot on to the gravel of the airport, I took a deep breath and registered the smell of Morocco. A gust of wind sent chills through my spine. I took out my coat from my backpack. I was ready for my adventure to begin.

Casablanca

Morocco’s lingua franca is Arabic despite being situated in between two major continents – Africa and Europe. The local dialect of Arabic, however, was infused with French and it made learning Moroccan Arabic even more difficult than the standard Arabic. Apparently, one semester’s worth of studying basic Arabic did not prepare me enough for Morocco. Thankfully, a local middle aged man saw me having difficulty communicating with the train ticket counter staff and came to my rescue.

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A typical mini mart in the heart of Casablanca.

Upon reaching Casa Voyageur, the main train station in Casablanca, my dear friend Jannah greeted me with open arms. Jannah is an SMU undergraduate who was on exchange in Casablanca. I was blessed with friends who were scattered all over Europe at the time of my travels. Who could resist free accommodation and a glimpse of life as a local while traveling?

Ahmed became my train companion to the city. He was visiting his mother in his home city of Tetouan. Having spent the last twenty years of his life in Netherlands, Ahmed had plenty of stories to share with me during our brief encounter. He warned me of sly young Moroccan men (of which I already took precaution of since making friends with the earlier-mentioned Moroccan guy), boasted about Moroccans’ ability to speak multiple languages and reminded me to visit his home city.

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I walked past an ongoing street protest about the government raising the prices of fruits and vegetables.

The first thing I looked forward to in Morocco was the street food. Years of dining at the so-called Arabic and Moroccan restaurants of Bussorah Street only brought shame to real Moroccan food. The tagines and infusion of sweet and savory in authentic Moroccan cuisine were divine. The flavor of spices like cumin, paprika and cinnamon would burst in your mouth as you bite into juicy chunks of meat and tomatoes. Bread and olives come together with your tagine as a set, and a Moroccan meal is never complete without a glass of fresh Moroccan mint tea.

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Posing for the camera on Ain Diab beach.

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My first meal of chicken tagine upon touchdown in Casablanca, lovingly bought by Jannah.

Jannah took me on a tour of the city on foot. Casablanca was bustling with life, more specifically, nightlife. The streets of Ain Diab saw a plethora of pubs and clubs. In a country where Islam is evidently imprinted in culture and tradition, Casablanca is refreshingly modern and westernized. The malls carry European and American brands, and surprisingly, homegrown brands Charles & Keith and Pedro too.

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Hassan II Mosque of Casablanca, Morocco.

On the contrary, the Hassan II Mosque provided respite from the chaos of the city. The minaret stands at 210 metres tall and it has a capacity of 105 000 pax – I heard that during the month of Ramadhan, up to 500 000 people flood the mosque grounds to carry out the nightly terawih[2] prayers. I took the opportunity to step inside the praying area and marvel at the intricate architecture. It became clear to me why it took 7 years and more than $500 million to build.

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A middle-aged man walks around the Hassan II Mosque, waiting for the call for prayer.

Fez

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The famous leather tannery in Fez, Morocco. They still use ancient methods of making leather by hand.

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A little boy in one of the shops selling leather goods.

After spending the first two days of my solo adventure in Casablanca, I took a four-hour train ride to Fez, the city most well known for its leather tannery. I stayed in a cozy little hostel near the old medina[3] and made a few friends. I even met a fellow Singaporean who shares the same name as me (a guy version, however) and has been traveling for two months! It was exciting for the both of us because we took the chance to converse in colloquial Malay. I ventured Fez on my own on the first day, keeping in mind to stay safe and come back to the hostel alive.

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A makeshift stall on the streets of Fez.

My first meal in Fez was a huge camel meat kofta kebab. The tenderness of the meatballs was cleverly mixed with a plethora of spices, among which were cumin and paprika. Topped with a dollop of yoghurt mint sauce and filled with garden vegetables, the kebab pretty much filled me up for the rest of the day. I headed back to the hostel to wash up and rest. I was desperate for some sleep.

After a good night’s rest, I filled my stomach as much as I could with the free hostel breakfast. It wasn’t much, but being a traveler on a budget I had to make do. I had earlier planned to go on the free walking tour, but somehow the tour was cancelled. I made friends with a fellow solo traveler, Ariel from Argentina, who arrived in Fez about the same time as me. Standing at about 1.9 metres tall, I would have easily fallen in love at first sight with him if I were back home. Since I was traveling, I couldn’t care less. 

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Two young ladies at the entrance of the Fez library. Visitors were not allowed in.

We explored the entire old medina of Fez, walking on the outskirts of the medina to see the castle ruins and take a breather at the top of the hill. The view of Fez from the castle ruins was simply breathtaking. For the whole hour we were there, I could not stop marveling at the beauty of the country. The clear blue skies, the beautifully aging bricks walls and the old people who were never short of compliments; Fez was charming.

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One of the main reasons I love Morocco – the beautiful Islamic art displayed in the mosques.

I spent my last night in Fez in the comforts of the hostel, smoking shisha with Ariel, and making small talk with others who were sitting around us. As much as I would have loved to be part of the party at the hostel rooftop, I was gathering all my excitement for the next city I would depart for the morning after.

Chefchaouen

Just a three-hour bus ride away from Fez is Chefchaouen, the blue city. Situated in northwest of Morocco, Chefchaouen sits amongst the Rif Mountains, and is just inland from Tangiers and Tetouan. Chefchaouen was formerly part of the Spanish Morocco but was returned to Morocco in 1956; hence Spanish is a more common language in this city.

I fell in love with Chefchaouen at first sight. I stumbled upon images of the city on Tumblr and was delighted when I found out the blue ville is actually in Morocco. It felt like I was living in a snow globe of sorts. The chilly winter with a hint of the sun was perfect to me. Pastry and boulangerie shops lined the quiet streets, while the main souq was filled with old men and women making a living out of selling fruits, vegetables and knick-knacks for the curious traveler.

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A man settle fruits and vegetables just outside of the souq.

I reunited with Jannah in Chefchaouen. The main mosque in Chefchaouen stood amidst restaurants and coffee shops. Since it was a Friday when we spent our second day, we sat down in one of the restaurants and watched the men head to the mosque for their Friday prayers. It was a remarkable sight. Compared to Singapore where only about fourteen percent of the population is Muslim, Morocco’s official religion being Sunni Islam means their lifestyle and culture are deeply embedded with the religion.

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The beautiful view of Chefchaouen, also known as the Bleuville.

We spent our two days in Chefchaouen eating, hiking, relaxing, eating, talking – did I mention eating? Despite the lack of activities for tourists, the quaint city still attracts people from everywhere just because of its beauty. Indeed, Chefchaouen placed me in the shoes of the most superficial men I have encountered.

Tangiers

We took a bus to Tangiers after two days in Chefchaouen. Jannah was due to meet a fellow Singaporean, Aida, who married a Moroccan and relocated to Tangiers. My plan was to bid farewell to Jannah in Tangiers so I could catch a sleeper train to Marrakesh. It was the weekend of the Marrakesh International Film Festival and I wanted to be part of the action. After hearing so much about Aida, I ended up spending the weekend in Tangiers.

Our hosts were welcoming and they made us feel at home. Newly-weds, Aida and Karim were excited to have us over at their place, as we were their first guests. Tangiers was like another Casablanca to me, except that Tangiers offered more than just malls and a mosque. Hercules Cave, where the supposed son of Zeus separated Spain and Morocco, is one of the more popular tourist attractions. The sea provided a clear view of the Straits of Gibraltar, which must be accompanied with a tagine of fresh fish and vegetables. The winds and sounds of the sea would remind you of the beach, and for a while, you forget that you are in Morocco.

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An old man contemplating on life. 

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He was playing football with his friends.

Right after this shot was taken, he looked at me said, “1 Dirham!” I ran away after that.

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Jannah (in the pink hijab), Aida and her husband Karim with some men we made friends with.

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On the way to Grotte D’Hercule.

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Endless horizon at Grotte D’Hercule.

Marrakesh

I ended my nine-day tour of Morocco by spending the last day in Marrakesh. After a fourteen hour train ride from Tangiers, I was tired and famished. I did not prepare myself well for the commute, and was dying for a place to rest. Thankfully, the hostel, which I cancelled my reservation at, welcomed me with open arms although I was not checking in for the night. I was served tea by the front desk personnel, Muhammad, and was even given free breakfast. The hospitality of Moroccans never failed to amaze me.

After walking around the famed Jemaa Al-Fana for half a day, my feet were begging me to rest. I finished my souvenir shopping and made my way back to the hostel – a very long way back because I got lost in the maze of the medina. After a two hour unintended detour, I arrived at the hostel and rested for the remaining hours before catching my flight to Sevilla.

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Maassalamah Ya Maroc[4]

On the way to the airport on a motorcycle taxi, I soaked in my last Moroccan sunset. The orange hues in the sea of blue sent chills to my spine, and somehow, it brought tears to my eyes. I had to bid farewell to Morocco. I was not ready to leave Morocco. I had yet to experience the Sahara Desert, skiing in Ifrane, or climb the Atlas Mountaints – but I know deep in my heart I would be back someday, somehow, to this marvelous land called Morocco.

I left pieces of my heart in the cities I visited. A little in Casablanca and Fez, a piece in Chefchaouen, and a little bit more in Tangiers and Marrakesh. As much as I wanted to drop the rest of my Euro trip and stay in Morocco, I decided not to. I soaked up the last air of Morocco I could while I was at the Marrakesh airport, and told myself I will be back – and hopefully the next time I am in Morocco, I have a lifelong travel partner by my side.

[1] Souq – market in Arabic

[2] Nightly prayers only held during the month of Ramadhan. These prayers are not compulsory for Muslims, but highly beneficial.

[3] Arabic for city

[4] maassalamah ya Maroc means see you again, Morocco in Arabic

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Faith, Love, Musings

Being the Shams

The past three months has been nothing but exciting and adventurous. I ended 2013 with a crazy trip to Europe and the possibility of a new start in life – a new job, a new love and a new Shams.

But 2014 began and it was just a new Shams.

I ditched the idea of getting full-time employment and got ditched by the almost new love. But there I was, standing alone as the new Shams. A Shams who embraces change and the fluidity of life. A Shams who understands whatever she plans is only subject to the plans of her Creator. A Shams who has only faith and faith alone to live her life. A Shams who is patient when she is being tested. And a Shams who tries her best to see the good in people – even those who had hurt her.

And everyday, I am learning more about this new Shams inside of me.

In life, you are either Rumi waiting for Shams to make an appearance in your life, or you are the Shams to someone else’s life.

That was what I learnt during the book club reading of Forty Rules of Love. I guess it’s just timely that I embody the true meaning of my name – Sun in the House. I’ll be the sun to someone else’s life even though at times I really wish I could seek shelter for myself.

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Cafe Hopping, Food, Love, Musings

Cafe Hopping: Wheeler’s Yard

Wheeler’s Yard is the new kid on the block with regards to Singapore’s new hipster cafe scene. I’m not too sure when this cafe opened but when I first stepped afoot there last month, I was blown away by its size, location and comfort. It’s actually a huge warehouse and the cafe functions as a bicycle shop as well. There’s plenty of space, so you don’t have to worry about not getting a seat or having to be on a waiting list. Parking lots, however, is limited so you might have to park your cars at the HDB parking nearby.

The first time I was at Wheeler’s Yard, I had the espresso shot. They didn’t have Americano (beats me why they didn’t have it on the menu), so I couldn’t judge the quality of the coffee fairly. When I cafe hop, I use the Americano as quality control. I do have to admit, the espresso was strong enough to keep me up a bit later than my usual bed time.

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The menu, however, was very limited. You would think that a cafe with such an enormous space would have fancy and unique things on the menu, but not so for Wheeler’s Yard. The coffee menu was limited to espresso shots, latte and cappuccino. They do have umm a $4 milk on the menu, as well as hot chocolate and sodas and teas – oh not forgetting beers. The only food I had was the nachos, and I must say they do a darn good nacho.

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As for the latte, I cannot say much because I have never been a fan of lattes, although latte art is beautiful. I didn’t want the espresso this time round so my friends and I went for the latte.

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Did I mention the place is exceptionally beautiful for a pre-wedding or wedding photo shoot? The space, high ceilings and warehouse vibes certainly did inspire me.

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Overall, I think Wheeler’s Yard is a great place for hanging out with friends, and just let the day pass by. I wouldn’t go back for coffee unless my friends do want to pay the place a visit.

Wheeler’s Yard

28 Lorong Ampas Singapore 328781
Phone: 62549128
Mon: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Wed – Sat: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Sun: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
Website: https://www.facebook.com/wheelersyard
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