x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Springing into action

In the spirit of spring, here are 10 things to do before the heat of summer hits, from getting organised to enjoying some time outdoors.

Illustration by Sharon Langdon-Bailey for The National
Illustration by Sharon Langdon-Bailey for The National

1 Organise a spring clean

The idea of spring cleaning may seem daunting to some, but a little organisation will take you a long way. Start out by making a list of every wardrobe, room and cupboard that you want to go through, adding some details as to what you’d specifically like them to look like once you’re done.

Start with your bedroom and work your way out to the living room and kitchen (for more on the kitchen, turn to House&Home on page 11).

Divide the areas in need by the number of days that you can free up in the month to clean them. So let’s say you have 12 separate places or things you need to organise and three days to do it; that’s a very manageable four per day.

Start off small. Seeing instant results will motivate you to do more. Make sure that you have your to-do list hanging everywhere – your bathroom mirror, computer monitor and refrigerator. That way, you’re constantly reminded of what you’ve accomplished and what’s left to be done.

Still lacking motivation? Do it with a few friends and keep each other in check every week by creating a ­WhatsApp or Facebook group; perfect for moments when you’d rather sit on the sofa bingeing on TV series rather than sorting through your storage room. – Nadia El Dasher

2 Sort out your wardrobe

When it comes to sorting through your wardrobe, you need to be vicious. If you can’t bear parting with your still-has-the-label-on denim dress that you bought on sale three years ago, enlist the help of a decisive friend or family member.

The key is to purge anything that you haven’t worn in the past year. Then divide the purge pile into three other piles: those that can be altered at a tailor, jeweller or cobbler to suit the season, designer pieces that you can sell on eBay or myexwardrobe.com and those that will go to charity.

If you come across a garment that you love that’s seen better days, get it copied in a new fabric. Make sure that you pick the right quality of material at the fabric store (that way, the garment still drapes properly) and that you find a trustworthy tailor.

Only start moving your clothes back into the wardrobe when you’ve narrowed everything down to just the pieces that you want to keep. Use separate closets for different items – one for dresses and evening wear, one for jeans, trousers and skirts, and one for shirts and jackets. Be sure to categorise by colour following a basic spectrum; this will help you visually when putting outfits together.

Once you’re thoroughly satisfied, you can make a (small) list of household items that could help keep your place tidy until your next clean-up. Stackable shelves and woven baskets, drawer dividers and smart storage solutions for your winter clothing will make putting a look together a lot easier. – Nadia El Dasher

3 Clean out your car

For many of us in the UAE, our cars are like a second home, particularly when you’ve got a long commute, so you should treat it as such, rather than like a storage locker. How often have you been offered a ride by someone, only to have them say: “Just let me clear you a space” – as you look on in bewilderment while they throw an avalanche of crumpled takeaway bags, empty water bottles, yellowed newspapers or even dirty laundry onto the back seat? Vaguely endearing if it’s a friend, but not so cool if it’s someone whom you want to impress.

The easiest option is to have someone do your dirty work. The Green & Clean car wash at the back of Khalidiyah Mall in Abu Dhabi charges Dh50 for inside and out. The best thing is that they put all my junk in one bag and leave it on my back seat for me to sort out later.

Your glove compartment should be reserved for the most important things, which you can lock up when you valet: namely your registration and insurance, a spare pair of sunglasses and a bag of change that you can take to the parking meter. If you must have junk, that’s what the boot is for. Aside from an emergency road kit, I keep it stocked with spares, and not just a spare tyre, so that I’m at the ready no matter where I am: a fully stocked gym bag, including flip-flops for unforeseen pedicures, a swimsuit and a yoga mat; a blanket and a wrap, for overly air-conditioned places; a sewing kit; and a make-up bag, although I remove that when it heats up or it becomes a melted mess. I also have a basket of car-cleaning products: a bottle of water with a spray nozzle, window and leather wipes and paper towels.

Once your spring tidy-up is done, keep your car clear by removing garbage at least every time you get petrol. That way, you’re making use of the time while you wait. – Mo Gannon

4 Go on a detox

One thing that I love to do every spring and autumn is the 12-day Wild Rose Herbal D-tox, which I make sure to import with me from trips back to Canada. A lot of people are into extreme detoxing these days – nothing but pricey bottled juices for days, lots of moaning about it and so on – but, in my experience, it’s all very unnecessary. I love Wild Rose because I can continue to drink coffee, just much less of it, and eat actual food. It brings the focus back to the way that I really should be eating, which is lots of vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, organic eggs, chicken and wild fish.

As with most detoxes, this one basically eliminates dairy, sugar and wheat. It also advises against sugary fruits such as bananas and, for some reason that I’ve never been able to determine, mushrooms. There are three bottles of cleansing herbs and a tincture bottle to get through, and it can seem like a lot. If I’ve been overindulging, the first few days can be very hard; most people report feeling drained, weak and exhausted. Yet invariably by the sixth day or so, I’m swearing to live the Wild Rose way forever. And by the end, the benefits are literally staring me in the face: bright blue eyes, a clear complexion, mental clarity, inner calm and lots of energy and vigour. There are a variety of detox kits available at health food stores in the UAE, but I also firmly believe that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get the benefits. Just vow to cut out dairy, sugar and wheat for 12 days, squeeze some lemon in your water, and see how you feel how you feel at the end of it. – Ann Marie McQueen

5 Review your New Year’s resolutions

Remember all those good intentions that you had for yourself at the beginning of the year? Whether you made resolutions or not, one quarter of the year is now over, so it’s a good time to think about if you’re where you want to be. If you’re a solitary sort, then sit down with your journal; if you’re more social, ask your friends over for brunch and make it the topic of conversation.

Don’t put off taking your dream vacation, writing a book or quitting smoking until the end of the year, when they’re destined to become unfulfilled resolutions again. Adjust your goals or expectations if you need to, but at least begin by taking one step toward something you desire, in the spirit of spring. – Mo Gannon

6 Exercise in the great outdoors

If you’re no fan of the gym – and let’s face it, for the most part they’re crowded, either too hot or too cold and infused with the lingering scent of sweat – outdoor pursuits are the answer. With a limited time left to enjoy the opportunities for exercising outdoors in the UAE, why not head to the hills – or the park, or even just your nearest beach – to work out?

Stand Up Paddleboarding (or SUP if you want to be down with the lingo) is one of the fastest-growing watersports in the world. If kitesurfing and wakeboarding are a little too frenetic for your liking, this is a great way to inject some activity into an otherwise lazy day at the beach. SUP Abu Dhabi operates from the Corniche Breakwater, Mussaffah Bridge, Yas Island and the Eastern Mangroves ­ (www.abudhabisup.com), and you can hire paddle boards at The Kite Beach in Dubai for Dh35 per hour.

If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, try some SUP Yoga, which combines paddleboarding with basic yoga positions and focuses on core strength, forward and back bends, balancing exercises and arm strength. Classes are operated by Watercooled from the Hiltonia Beach Club in Abu Dhabi ­ (www.watercooleddubai.com).

A more vigorous choice is horse riding in Dubai’s Mushrif Park (which, for our money, is one of the city’s best-kept secrets). You can take lessons at the Mushrif Equestrian Club (www.mushrifec.com), but we’d recommend the one-and-a-half hour desert rides, which will see you traversing the huge and largely deserted park on the back of the centre’s lively mounts. Couple your ride with a picnic or a barbecue in the park and you’ve got yourself the perfect day out.

If you’re more of an explorer, check out the UAE Trekkers on Meet Up (www.meetup.com). The group organises one or two hikes per month in the mountains of the UAE or Oman, as well as training session and international expeditions. A certain level of fitness and some equipment is required, but this is a fantastic way to get off the beaten track and explore some of the country’s lesser-known facets. – Selina Denman

7 Get out in the garden

For the green-fingered, spring was already well under way by the time that winter’s official passing was celebrated on March 20. After the briefest of midwinter breaks, longer daylight hours now mean that February’s green shoots have been joined by a riot of colour from plants such as the trumpet tree (Tabebuia rosea) with its delicate pink blooms, and the buttery pinwheels of yellow allamanda (Allamanda cathartica).

To keep them happy and blooming, feed your plants with a potassium-rich fertiliser such as tomato plant feed – which is also good for fruits – and treat your compost and your soil to some slow-release fertiliser that will ensure your plants thrive throughout the heavier irrigation regime that must accompany the coming months.

While there is still time for bedding plants – pelargoniums are coming into their own at the moment – now is also the time to plan ahead and invest in the kit that will help your garden survive the summer.

If your plot is exposed to full sunlight, think about the kind of shade that you’ll need to shelter all but the very hardiest of plants. And if you haven’t already done so, consider installing an automatic, drip-irrigation system that will ensure your plants get the water they need, when they need it. Nothing is guaranteed to kill them like the erratic cycle of under- and over-watering that can come with the summer holiday season and watering by hand.

By the time that the scarlet flowers of the flame trees (Delonix regia) open, spring will have ended, so get out in your garden and enjoy yourself now: it’s later than you think. – Nick Leech

8 Plan your summer vacation

The secret to any successful holiday, especially a long one, is research and planning. Set aside a few days now and you’ll be taking off before your friends and colleagues can complain: “It’s hot out there, isn’t it?”

First, consider your options. Who are you going to be travelling with and do their expectations match with yours? If it’s a family trip, your dates are likely to be fixed, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t start looking at flights now. A colleague of mine just booked her summer flights for the whole family in a British Airways sale, as she wanted to spread the cost of the trip over several months. While that sale has now ended, others are announced regularly but at short notice, so keep an eye on the websites and Twitter feeds of all the major airlines and tour operators. Once you’ve got an idea of the base price for a particular flight at a particular time, you’ll then be able to quickly spot a good deal when it arises and snap it up fast.

The other thing to consider from the outset, especially if you’re considering trips to several destinations over the summer, is merging them to reduce both costs and jet lag. There’s no point flying to the US and back only to return to Europe two weeks later, unless you really can’t help it. Open-jaw tickets, in which you fly into one airport and out of another, sound complicated but really just require a bit more time and effort. All of the major airline’s websites can handle this type of booking (click “Multiple destinations/stopovers” on Etihad), so there’s no need to rely on a travel agent. Bear in mind that this type of flight usually costs more than a return flight to one destination, but with meticulous research, which in practice will come to mean endless online price comparisons (use sites like www.kayak.com and click “yes” to all search options for the widest choice), you can turn your stopovers into money-savers.

For example, instead of booking a return flight to San Francisco, you could fly via another airport, and directly back to the UAE from, say, New York, and find that the overall price is less. If you’re flying in economy and going via Europe, a stop in London, Paris or Munich can break the trip up nicely. Depending on what deals are available, it may even be cheaper to book a return flight to an airport in Europe, such as Zurich, and a return flight to North America from there.

Once your flights are booked, the rest of your trip will start to take shape. You can then start the really fun bit – shopping around for great advance-purchase deals from hotels and domestic airlines, and even car hire. In much of Europe and North America, trips are best booked well in advance; last-minute efforts will be rewarded with overly high tariffs.

For trips that are based around specific events, such as this year’s Fifa World Cup in Brazil, the time to book is now. If you’re really smart, though, you’ll visit Brazil just after the World Cup has finished. ­ – Rosemary Behan

9 Dine outdoors

April, May, June, forget it … it’s getting hot. The inevitable countdown has begun. Those enviable mornings sipping coffee with friends and watching the world go by are certainly numbered for the foreseeable future. As are the days of lavish picnics with the family that lead so effortlessly onto balmy evenings spent at our favourite restaurants overlooking the water.

We can’t control the weather, but we can certainly try to make the most of it. So on that note, here are our top picks for getting the best out of the outdoor dining scene in the next few months.

Start with breakfast on the outdoor terrace of Fanr Restaurant on Saadiyat Island before taking a walk around Manarat Al Saadiyat afterwards. Seasoned brunchers know that their time is dwindling, so there’s no room for experimentation and whim. Pearls and Caviar, the contemporary seafood restaurant at the Shangri-La Hotel in Abu Dhabi, is a firm favourite. Make sure to request a terrace view overlooking the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

Afterwards, move upstairs to watch the magnificent sunset from the terrace, which is a starlit, open-air venue.

The nearby Souk at Qaryat Al Beri is also worth a gander, before stopping for some of the city’s best sushi at Sho Cho, where you can procure a table overlooking the water.

In Dubai, take a long lunch after a morning of shopping at The Dubai Mall at Baker and Spice at Souk Al Bahar, which offers some of the tastiest salads in the city.

On Friday, head with the family to the organic ­market in Safa Park. Apart from the great selection of fruit and vegetables, there are plenty of organic homemade jams, oils and gluten-free treats on offer to add to your picnic basket.

Late afternoon, take a walk through the Palace segment of the One & Only Royal Mirage before settling in at the Jetty Lounge, where you can soak up the last of the evening rays overlooking the palm trees.

From here, The One & Only provides a boat service between the Royal Mirage and The Palm, so book a table at the upmarket 101 restaurant at One & Only The Palm, where you can continue your evening entertainment in style. ­ – Katie Trotter

10 Treat yourself to a staycation

Why bother with the hassle of African airports, the scourge of mosquitoes and the sheer expense of a safari holiday when you can experience a mini-safari break right here in the UAE?

Fly down to Sir Bani Yas Island with Rotana Jet (www.rotanajet.com) to take advantage of both the weather between now and May (cool enough to enjoy a game drive but warm enough for a swim in the pool) and the newly opened and much-awaited Anantara villas.

Within 90 minutes of leaving the office (the island is just a 30-minute flight from Abu Dhabi and there are also direct flights from Dubai) you can be landing on the 87-square-kilometre island and heading either to Al Yamm, which is situated on the beach, or Al Sahel, which is in the Arabian Wildlife Park. Experience sunset on the deck overlooking a tract of savannah and you feel like you’ve been teleported to Africa. One-bedroom villas at Al Sahel start from Dh1,577 per night, including taxes and breakfast (www.anantara.com).

Alternatively, if you like the beach, it’s almost a crime to take a holiday abroad at this time. By all means book a week off work, but treat yourself to a mini-vacation at home by making use of one of the UAE’s best assets: its beaches. While the new Corniche and Saadiyat Island beaches in Abu Dhabi, and Jumeirah Beach in Dubai, offer great free and almost-free entertainment, to pamper yourself in a different way you could check out the Nation Riviera Beach Club at the St Regis Abu Dhabi, which opened this week. Featuring 200 metres of private beach accessed via an air-conditioned tunnel from the main hotel on the Corniche, it also boasts two restaurants, a swim-up bar and grill, exclusive fitness facilities, a children’s club and watersports centre, with a look that transports you to the heights of east coast United States chic. Entrance is free with a hotel booking, or Dh300 per person on weekdays, Dh400 per person on weekends, while annual membership is Dh17,000 for a single person (www.nationrivierabeachclub.com). – Rosemary Behan