Monday, September 11, 2017

Fly high above the desert

Some things cannot be stopped. 
And flying seems to be one of those things.

I was told it would be addictive. I had not realized it would be that compelling. 

I may have said it before, but I will say it again: flying is a different kind of high. It is a calming, relaxing, peaceful elation. And I happen to need that sort of unwinding these days. 

So as planned, I looked up paragliding in Dubai and found a fantastic group on Facebook: Dubai Paragliders. These guys happen to be some of the nicest and fun people out there! 

5am, in my car :)
Photo: R. Abouzeid

Like a proper addict, I woke up at 5am, in the dark, got ready and drove for over an hour to get to that take-off site in the desert. Crazy? Not really because it ended up being such a treat! Worth every minute I spent in my car in the dark. Bonus suprise: I got a fantastic view of the sun rising over the highway. Priceless. 

The site is actually Real Expeditions' camp. 

Arriving at the camp
Photo: R. Abouzeid

They do much more than just paragliding there and they are in the process of adding new activities which sound absolutely fantastic! Aside from your regular hiking and camping, there will be horseback riding around some beautiful surroundings. All of which are kids and family friendly which is exactly what I love to hear!

Posing. Just because. LOL
Photo: R. Abouzeid


At the camp, I got to meet all the guys and Captain Tamás who was gearing up for three tandem flights that morning. He is a seasoned pilot with years of experience under his belt both in aircraft and paragliding flights.

Getting ready to fly
Photo: R. Abouzeid

The take off site sits in the beautiful desert of Sharjah, where a rocky mountain called Fossil Rock overlooks endless dunes of the most beautiful orange sand. This would be a once in a lifetime experience for any paraglider as usually, the natural settings for this sport is radically different.

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

We were lucky that morning, the wind was on side and we managed to fly for a decent time. To be fair, with mediocre weather conditions in Ehden, some of us could only fly for about 15 minutes so I guess, if we managed that same duration in the UAE, that was quite rewarding.

I was particularly fortunate as when it was my turn, the wind  conditions allowed us to go a bit higher and even play a little bit. I will not say we went as far as venturing into air acrobatics (my stomach remains grateful) but Tamás did go a little wild and, well, I think the video speaks for itself (I apologize for the high pitch screaming. ahem).


Spinning over the Dunes
Video: R. Abouzeid


Captain on top of things!
Photo: R. Abouzeid
Almost ready to let go of the winch way down below!
Photo: R. Abouzeid

Chilling up above
Photo: R. Abouzeid

No feeling like flying!
Photo: R. Abouzeid




Overall, the experience was fantastic and I am now more and more inclined to take lessons. Tandem is fun but it is not a sustainable flying routine and I think I will have to explore how and when I can commit to some serious paragliding classes.

If you too are interested in exploring the desert or flying in the UAE, get in touch with these guys! They will take good care of you and I promise you will go home with exceptional memories.

The complete album of my morning with them is available on Facebook. 


Dubai Paragliders
Real Expeditions
Call: +971.56.5452588
Facebook: Dubai Paragliders & Real Expeditions
Instagram: Dubai Paragliders & Real Expeditions


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Friday, August 25, 2017

The Boys of Summer

The boys in my hometown are rocking it.

Well, they have been at it for a few years now, but I was just too lazy to actually enjoy anything. I would just land for the summer and count the days go by.

But this year something happened. I felt a huge wave of nostalgia and kept remembering childhood summers and how careless and happy I was at that time. I remembered who I was. And I miss that girl.

So this year I decided to actually do all the stuff I always wanted to take on but never actually did.

That included paragliding which I wrote about before. I honestly think I have found an addiction. I absolutely loved flying and I have been trying to do it again but the damn weather keeps fighting me lately!

Photo: R. Abouzeid

Photo: R. Abouzeid

The experience has been borderline therapeutic and my soul needs this kind of serenity right now. The rush of jumping off a cliff and being lifted by the wind was beautifully liberating. It was not at all the scare I expected I had to overcome. On the contrary, it was overwhelmingly calming and relaxing and I am currently craving this state of mind and self.

It looks like I am going to have to find my paragliding substitute in Dubai...

Flying has given me the courage to try other things as well. The mountain is a wonderful playground if you really want to put yourself out there and experience new adventures!

And so, I conquered the mountains!

Well, not really, but I did conquer some fears and had a blast in the process. The boys at La Réserve took me and the kids for some wild fun:

A post shared by Rouba Abouzeid (@abouzeid) on
Source: IG


Source: FB

Image may contain: mountain, sky, tree, outdoor and nature
Photo: R. Abouzeid
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, child, shoes and outdoor
Photo: R. Abouzeid
Image may contain: sky, mountain, cloud, tree, plant, outdoor and nature
Photo: R. Abouzeid
Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoor
Photo: R. Abouzeid
Image may contain: 5 people, people standing, outdoor and nature
Photo: R. Abouzeid

Zouzou and Ali were absolute sweethearts. The kids loved them and La Réserve. It is a lovely venue with chalets and a small pool that would make for a perfect getaway both in the summer and in the winter.

The boys know how to talk to children and I was shocked that such young men had it in them to hold entire conversations with my 6 year old Duracell Chatterbox! But they did and Mia is completely in love with the people in Ehden and I do not blame her one bit. She is even talking about staying here forever ;)

I am really proud of my hometown and the young people making things happen for themselves and the village. Ehden is truly beautiful and I am so appreciative of this new generation that is making our Lebanon shine in a positive and uplifting way. 

They are adventurous, they are passionate, they are fun and most importantly, they are contagious! You cannot help love them and what they do. They can talk you into following them anywhere and do just about anything! That is how spirited and impassioned they are!

Come and meet them, you will not regret it:

Ehden Mountain Activities
Facebook
Instagram
Marc Finianos
Phone: +961.3.754928

La Réserve Horsh Ehden
Facebook
Instagram
Joseph (Zouzou) Yammine
Phone: +961.6.561092




... Oh... And I cannot end without a tribute to The Boys Of Summer. The lyrics are in no way related to all that I have written above but the song has been stuck in my head ever since I typed the title! ;)  






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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Fly high above the mountains

Today I crossed one goal off my bucket list:

I FLEW

I literally flew up in the sky. And it was every bit as fantastic as I had imagined.

Each year I come to Ehden in the summer, and each year I look up to the clouds and see these amazing people flying above us. Mia has baptized the yellow paraglider Le Petit Prince. Because like The Little Prince, he flies a yellow aircraft and he makes us dream.



Since then, she has been begging to fly with him. That is not happening right now, for obvious reasons. But I told her today I was going to fly one of those gliders and she got so excited.

Source: Ehden Mountains Activities

She asked me earlier if I saw him in the sky. Little does she know I actually flew with him.

Mia's Little Prince is called Marc and he totally deserves the title my daughter bestowed upon him because he is Flying Royalty.

The minute you start talking to Marc about Ehden Mountains Activities, you fall in love. He is so passionate about what he does and this is literally his life. He does not waste time promoting himself or gloating, and yet, his reputation is well established because of his commitment and professionalism as well as his dedication to doing things the right way.

In a country like Lebanon where regulations and laws governing such businesses are virtually non existent and seasonal occupations are usually dealt with like hobbies, it was refreshing to see someone so involved and dedicated.

It is not enough to adore your passions in order to turn them into your livelihood.

But most importantly, when the person you need to trust has to actually care for your safety and your life, it becomes an entirely other ball game.

Marc has got game. He is responsible and takes every step needed to be on top of things and comfortable with his clients and himself in any situation in the air or on the ground.

When it comes to paragliding in particular, he has completed all international trainings and certifications to ensure every flight is completed safely and smoothly.

Source: Ehden Mountains Activities
Source: Ehden Mountains Activities
Source: Ehden Mountains Activities
Source: Ehden Mountains Activities

This professionalism is reflected in every detail and exercise he undertakes, be it paragliding, camping, or any of the other activities he offers at the highest altitudes (zip line, rappel, caving, etc.) and yes, it is a bike on a string that you saw up there!

A post shared by Rouba Abouzeid (@abouzeid) on

So if you ever swing by Lebanon, make sure you pass by my hometown of Ehden, give Marc a call and let him take your breath away.












Experience the adventure of a lifetime in the sky and make sure you check the other activities too. Off-roading to Qurnat Assawda, the highest peak in the Middle East (3080m of altitude) and spending the night at 2000m above sea level must also be on your list!

And... Enjoy!


Ehden Mountains Activities
... Call on +961 3 754 928
... On Facebook
... On Instagram




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Monday, July 24, 2017

Me Vs Me

Is it me or does time fly for everyone? I just realized I have been in Lebanon for a whole month. It feels like we have just arrived.

I am trying to keep on track with my fitness goals but somehow my diet has taken a hit. Not that I put on weight (I hope! My old school scale is not very accurate here) but I am definitely stuck on a damn plateau. This has got to be the most annoying phase of a diet. 

Source: IG

I have switched from EMS to Personal Training here, mostly for practical reasons. In the little town where I am spending my summer, choices are limited and the nearest EMS studio is 40 minutes away. It seems a bit ridiculous to drive an hour and a half in scorching heat for a 20 minutes session. 

And what better motivation than to have your workout brought to you? It is not like I can escape my own home. 

Source: IG

Jokes aside, this has been hard: a whole hour, five days a week. I feel like I am getting fitter, obviously, but unfortunately, this is not reflecting on my weight yet. 

However, I have decided to stop obsessing about the scale and find new ways to motivate myself to stay fit. Because unfortunately, working out still feels like a chore. Whoever said the first 20 days are the hardest is an idiot. It never gets easy! But I guess this is where commitment comes to play. You need to want it, bad. 

New Challenges

The first time I stumbled upon Spartans on Instagram, I was floored. Who on Earth would ever do that? As my dear Vani would say: "There aren't enough wet wipes in the world!"

Then I realized these psychos were actually doing something fantastic: Special Spartans! And I told myself, one day I would race with Jad. What a monumental way to show support and raise awareness on Autism, right? That was a while ago and back then, I was very far from where I stand today and the idea of racing to something other than a cup of coffee seemed surreal. 

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a post from Spartans Arabia and decided to contact them and ask about the next race in the UAE. It turns out it is happening soon: November 10 in Hatta. If that is not the universe telling me it is not hearing my lousy excuses, then I do not know what that is!

Source: Spartan Arabia

BRING IT SPARTA!

I am so ready for you! I will train like a mad woman and I will race and... I will not die. Hopefully. It would be very unfortunate. Those races take place in the mud and all kinds of crazy, dirty holes. I am not sure anyone would pick me up if I would happen to collapse somewhere...

So this summer is like a pre-training program right now. When I get to Dubai, I have about two months to kick my butt into shape. 

Then, it's mud time baby! ;)

(Hopefully I will follow through.... LOL) 



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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Winter Girl Looks For Summer Purpose

I was born right in the middle of winter. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with my utter aversion to summer but one thing is certain: I hate it. 

I cannot stand to be in the sun, heat drives me insane and I am disgusted with the feeling of being hot and sweaty and sticky human skin. I have never enjoyed the beach or the pool and the idea of spending hours in scorching heat just to get a tan revolts me. (Yes, I know, what better place to live in than Dubai?) 

I begin to stress and nag before the season starts, just thinking of what is to come. 

And even though I am in cool Ehden right now, where the clouds are literally underneath us, I still find it difficult to enjoy my time. It is not hot nor humid and a lovely fog has been visiting us for the past few days which makes my heart smile. But still, I cannot bring myself to be content with the blessings of spending the season 1500m above sea level.

So I decided to look for reasons. A sense of Summer Purpose if you will.

Every time I am in Lebanon, I stumble upon objects from the past which make me smile. An old diary. Photographs. Books. Cassettes. They take me back to a place of serenity and calmness. If I want to be honest with myself, they were anything but calm when I lived them. But I guess, looking back, they seem quite peaceful (thank you selective memory)

However, I will attempt to find new, current reasons to enjoy (read: tolerate) my summer. Romanticizing the past will not shorter my days nor bring more fun. The whole process might make the present even more depressing.

Since very few things seem to work these days, I should probably stick to a simple exercise. Maybe find one good, positive summer attribute for each of my senses. Come on, I can find five little things right?  

So, here we go:

Summer Purpose through the senses

Sight 
That one is quite easy. Our home overlooks one of the most stunning views in Ehden. The clouds are literally underneath us and the sunset is breathtaking every single evening. The moon sits rights in front of our swing and if we tilt our heads a little, the stars are almost at hand's reach.

Source: IG

Hearing 
I guess I could mention the crickets or the sounds of happy people celebrating weddings near us but I guess my most favorite sounds are those of Mia and Jad laughing their hearts out in the garden. They are so small and the little things makes them happy. And this alone blesses my soul.

Source: IG

Taste
My mom's cooking, real kebbe and home-made sahlab. My dad bringing us kaak from Abou Arab every week on his way from Beirut. All of those but maybe also the iconic mshabeshle or even Salem's Arabic ice cream? Or is it biscuits with raha? So many delicious treats that I can only find here. This is not helping at all. I am still struggling with my diet so I probably should have skipped that entire part...

Source: IG
Source: IG

Source: IG

Source: IG

Source: IG

Smell
The other day I woke up to smell of freshly made sahlab and I swear I was in heaven for a few minutes. I just love it and even though I have made it a few times in Dubai, there is nothing like having a fresh cup in the garden, looking at the mountains and taking deep breaths of crisp air. (Looks like I am back on food. Great).


Source: IG

Touch
Well that is a tough one considering the husband is not in town. (mwahahahaha)! I guess this is a constant in my life: holding my kids' tiny hands while they sleep. Thank God, they are still small enough to let me do it. They keep growing bigger and somehow, when I hold their little fingers, they seem so tiny. They give me so much warmth and in that moment I can actually see the immensity of my own love. I never thought a heart could expand so much but it does. Bigger than the universe and more.

Baby Mia & Mamma Mia

Baby Jad & Mamma Mia+Jad

Tiny humans. Giant love. 




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