I had not expected to travel abroad this month but was asked by the boss to handle some issues at one of the company's projects in the Middle East. The previous Sunday saw me and a friend named Hasnul, on an Emirates flight bound for Dubai and we spent the whole of last week in the United Arab Emirates.
The project is located in Fujairah, one of the seven emirates or states in the UAE, the others being Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al-Khaimah and Umm Al-Quwain. The UAE is a federation not unlike Malaysia. Each emirate has its own government and is headed by an Emir or ruler. Although Dubai is perhaps the most well-known of all the states, the capital of the federation is actually Abu Dhabi. The ruler of Abu Dhabi is also the president of UAE.
I was last in the UAE in April of last year, having spent about six months posted there to manage a project. This latest trip was therefore more like a return to a familiar place and meeting old colleagues. Fujairah is located about 130km from Dubai and is the only emirate that has a coastline facing east towards the Gulf of Oman. The other states have coastlines facing the Persian Gulf. The landscape in Fujairah is a stark contrast when compared to Dubai. Most of Fujairah consists of rocky mountains while Dubai is generally sandy desert.
The first day was spent attending a meeting and later evaluating the progress of works at the project site. The following day, I took the opportunity to visit some old colleagues who were stationed at the company's crane barge that was moored in Dibba Port, located to the north of Fujairah town.
Later that evening, we had dinner at a Pakistani restaurant that has become one of our regular makan place. My friends had chicken briyani while I chose to have chicken tikka with naan bread. The weather in the Emirates at the present time is mild with temperatures around the low twenties Celsius. Since the air was cool, we chose to have our dinner at the outside table. At other times of the year, the temperature can be a sweltering 40 degrees, even at night.
We were able to complete our task earlier than anticipated and managed to bring forward our return date by 4 days. Before flying back, Hasnul recommended that we have dinner at a restaurant in Dubai that serves a delicious rice and meat dish. He has been to the place only once before and could only remember the name of the restaurant and the street on which it is located. But he could not recall the specific area of Dubai where the street is or how exactly to get there.
After asking for general directions from the hotel front desk, we ventured out in the notorious Dubai traffic in search of a makan place that reputedly serves a tasty meal that would become unforgettable. It took us quite a while before we finally found the place. At one point while we were crawling in the jam and circling the streets, I told Hasnul that the food had better be real good for me to endure the terrible congestion. He assured me that it is... and having tested Hasnul's recommendations of other food places before, I never thought of giving up.
Bait Al Mandi Restaurant is located on Al Muraqqabat Street in the Al Rashidiya area of Dubai. It is quite plain-looking and does not have any fancy decor to pull the tourist crowd. The restaurant basically serves a rice dish called `mandi' that comes in three variants : mutton, chicken or fish. Mandi is a traditional dish that originated from Yemen.
Since there were four of us that evening, we selected a combination of mutton and chicken mandi. The dish included a standard serving of fresh vegetable salad, some yoghurt and a homemade tangy chilli-tomato dipping sauce. The mutton meat was tender and so tasty. The chicken was juicy and delicious too. For a mutton lover like me, the meal was really exquisite. It was worth the trouble of wading through the horrible traffic.
If I ever do get the chance to visit Dubai again, I'm willing to skip the shopping or sight-seeing just to have another mutton mandi at this place. Unforgettable.