Friday, May 27, 2016

Reunion dinner at Sahara Tent

Last Saturday, 21st May 2016, I had a date with my former roommate when I was doing my diploma in UiTM Shah Alam. They were my buddies during that 4 years of student life. In fact, they were the one who introduced me to a big city social life, being a village girl as I was. So much so, our gang of about 10 ladies became closer than we thought and relied on each other much, having to live far from the family. We are all Kelantanese. Admittedly we are racist too as we only wanted to be around within our clan, speaking the same dialect, craving for the same food. Hubby used to call me that. After graduation in 1988, we rarely met but we are connected through social network, Facebook. Last month, I made a courtesy to reunite with 4 of them back in my hometown. The 2 ladies happened to have a seminar in KL and asked me to fetch them so that we all can visit another friend in Jalan Ampang. The 4 of us, after not meeting for 28 years, spent a great time in Grand Place, where she stayed and later she treated us to dinner at Sahara Tent. The restaurant is just a walking distance to her place. You may view their menu at the link, "Sahara Tent Menu" that I shared from their website. 

Arabian light hanging at the Reception counter

It was my first time dining at Sahara Tent although I’ve been at the location uncounted times. My foodie companions and I usually had our lunch or dinner at Victoria Station, Jalan Ampang and Sahara Tent is located right next to it. There's an ample parking space in between the 2 restaurants. To my surprised, Sahara Tent has its origins in New Zealand, not the Middle Eastern. The first outlet that opened in April 1993 was in Auckland. 3 years later, Sahara Tent set its foot in Hamilton. Qantas Airline has voted them as one of the best restaurants in town. Waikatu University also voted as the outlet with the best service and interns from polytechnics and hotel management schools earmarked Sahara Tent for industrial training. I remembered having a dinner with my brother, Choo Kai Loong long ago in Doha city right after we took a seat at Sahara Tent dining table. It has similar feeling and indeed this place has been furnished with a Bedouin interior style.   

Large main dining area with Bedouin dining table

A private room with curtains at 1 end of the restaurant
Sahara Tent came to Malaysia in 2001 by opening its first restaurant outlet in Jalan Berangan off Jalan Sulan Ismail. Soon after, in 2002, Tourism Malaysia has voted Sahara Tent the best Middle Eastern restaurant. In 2004, the same opinion was voiced by KL Halal Food Guide. Due to a remarkable response and encouragement by its clientele, the restaurant boards were up to the challenged of expanding. The second outlet, i.e. in 2009 was opened in Shah Alam and in 2011, Jalan Ampang with astounding decoration and a feeling to dine under the colourful Bedouin tents has become the restaurant’s most popular place.

Arabian Salad, most recommended

The founder, Mr Ala Salih is a food ambassador. He first came to Malaysia in 2000 for a holiday without any intention of opening up a restaurant chain. His 2 weeks break in this country has eventually ended up as a permanent arrangement when he took big courage and opened the doors of the first Arabian restaurant in Jalan Berangan, Kuala Lumpur. The main reason was due to the neutral atmosphere in Malaysia that to him most suitable. It was brought to Ala’s attention that there was no Arabian diner in Kuala Lumpur to cater to the influx of tourists from the said region, i.e. middle eastern way back in year 2000. Now, look at what happened along the area! It was turn into an Arab's world. The place used to be an area where I love to hang out during university time. Sungai Wang and Bukit Bintang are the 2 attractions to the locals as well as to the tourist. Pavillion is just around the corner.

BBQ platter, "Mix Grill" with Arabian bread

A must have menu, BBQ lamb "Riyash" that has closer taste to Afghan tandoori that I had in Islamabad, long ago in 2009 

Jalan Berangan, back in the old days is known for its high crime rate. Sahara Tent played an important role to help regain a new fresh and clean with much help and assistant from the community and authorities. In 2005, Jalan Berangan has play a vital role in promoting Malaysian tourism when it was given a new nickname, i.e. Ain Arabia or the Arab Street. Other business offering services such as barber shop, grocery store and a perfume oils boutique. The enclave has become a home away from home for the Arab tourist. Another sister restaurant, Hay-Al- Arab, was also opened to meet dining demands from the crowds. Today, Ain Arabia is a prominent tourist spot in travel brochures and it is a new badge that the area wears with pride. I shall bring my family to dine at Jalan Berangan once Nazhif is back for his holiday.

Arabian tea, it comes in large pot suffice for the 4 of us

Best buddies, before and now

My friend Linda and her son are a regular customer to the place. They made friends with the waiter earned when being regular. According to her, she used to have iftar buffet frequently last year. The buffet is charged at RM58/pax for 2016 iftar, coming in less than 2 weeks time. You may called their number at the given link above for booking. Our group of 4 + a teenage boy had our fun dining there and I wish you of the same. 

Last photo with a Wood Camel

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dr Zakir Naik debate about human existence

I first knew about Dr Zakir Naik when I was watching a TV programme in Karachi, called "Peace TV". That was in 2007. He is known as "Deedat plus", a label given to him by the late Ahmad Deedat (a South African writer and Islamic Scholar/Preacher) himself. Dr Zakir said in 2006, that he was inspired by Ahmed Deedat having met him in person in 1987. He was born in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. He attended Kishinchand Chellaram College and studied medicine at Topiwala National Medical College & BYL Nair Charitable Hospital and later the University of Mumbai, where he obtained a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS). In 1991 he started working in the field of Da’wah, and founded the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). He also founded the Islamic International School in Mumbai and United Islamic Aid, which provides scholarship to poor and destitute Muslim youth. The Islamic Research Foundation website describes Naik as "the ideologue and driving force behind Peace TV Network".

Yesterday , 24th May 2016, I watched 1 of his speech in YouTube video published on 16 June 2014 by MuslimSpeakers. A man with outstanding own perception and studies stood and asked Dr Zakir Naik about why Allah created Human in this world since He knew, He has knowledge that we, human kind will some obey and some disobey Him. Allah has created hell and heaven as a reward to those who sin and those who throughout their life only performing deeds and obliged to straight path. The man further said if Allah has asked his permission before given him a life, he would have choose to be born as an angel as to his opinion, an angel will follow only a straight path and assured a place in heaven. Dr Naik reaffirmed that human is a special creation by Allah who were given a brain to differentiate the wrong or right path. Angel and Demons being around human so that those who get tested, including the prophets who had uncounted tests in their teaching worth to be awarded with reward at the end of their eternal existence. A simple explanation or rather a straightforward answer: Only Allah has a power to give hidayah to those who passed His test. Just like a teacher who shall gave high marks to those students who answered excellently in any exam. You may watched the said video that I referred to as shared below.

Dr Zakir has quoted the followings 4 verses in the Quran where Allah has clearly said:-

Al A'raf 7:172 And (remember) when your Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam, from their loins, their seed (or from Adam's loin his offspring) and made them testify as to themselves (saying): "Am I not your Lord?" They said: "Yes! We testify," lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: "Verily, we have been unaware of this."
Dan (ingatlah wahai Muhammad) ketika Tuhanmu mengeluarkan zuriat anak-anak Adam (turun-temurun) dari (tulang) belakang mereka, dan Ia jadikan mereka saksi terhadap diri mereka sendiri, (sambil Ia bertanya dengan firmanNya): "Bukankah Aku tuhan kamu?" Mereka semua menjawab: "Benar (Engkaulah Tuhan kami), kami menjadi saksi". Yang demikian supaya kamu tidak berkata pada hari kiamat kelak: "Sesungguhnya kami adalah lalai (tidak diberi peringatan) tentang (hakikat tauhid) ini".
Remarks: The memory of the testiment has been wiped up when a human is born through the mother's womb and we are been on test ever since that day until the day we return to The Almighty.

Al-Ahzab 33:72 We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it;- He was indeed unjust and foolish;-
Sesungguhnya Kami telah kemukakan tanggungjawab amanah (Kami) kepada langit dan bumi serta gunung-ganang (untuk memikulnya), maka mereka enggan memikulnya dan bimbang tidak dapat menyempurnakannya (kerana tidak ada pada mereka persediaan untuk memikulnya); dan (pada ketika itu) manusia (dengan persediaan yang ada padanya) sanggup memikulnya. (Ingatlah) sesungguhnya tabiat kebanyakan manusia adalah suka melakukan kezaliman dan suka pula membuat perkara-perkara yang tidak patut dikerjakan.
Remarks: Man are indeed a complete fool. They are more than happy to live with such a big burden for the name of glory and temporary worldly life.

Al-Hasr 59:21 Had We sent down this Qur'an on a mountain, verily, thou wouldst have seen it humble itself and cleave asunder for fear of Allah. Such are the similitudes which We propound to men, that they may reflect.
Sekiranya Kami turunkan Al-Quran ini ke atas sebuah gunung, nescaya engkau melihat gunung itu khusyuk serta pecah belah kerana takut kepada Allah. Dan (ingatlah), misal-misal perbandingan ini Kami kemukakan kepada umat manusia, supaya mereka memikirkannya.
Remarks: Man are so confident to meet Allah with thousands of excuses and reasons but not knowing Allah has warned and repeatedly reminded them not to follow a wrong path, a Shaitan ways.

Ha'Mim 41: 53 Soon will We show them our Signs in the (furthest) regions (of the earth), and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth. Is it not enough that thy Lord doth witness all things?
Kami akan perlihatkan kepada mereka tanda-tanda kekuasaan Kami di merata-rata tempat (dalam alam yang terbentang luas ini) dan pada diri mereka sendiri, sehingga ternyata jelas kepada mereka bahawa Al-Quran adalah benar. Belumkah ternyata kepada mereka kebenaran itu dan belumkah cukup (bagi mereka) bahawa Tuhanmu mengetahui dan menyaksikan tiap-tiap sesuatu?
Remarks: Only the 5 Book of Allah, i.e. the book of Truth can help a man!

I like the ending part of the video when Dr Zakir Naik posed a brilliant question back "Why would Bill Gates gave you a $100?" in answering to the man last statement "If Bill Gates gave me a $100, would I be amazed with that?". Everyone, used your head to think deeper if Bill Gates pick us as a special person for his $100... would it even more if Allah has chosen us to give the same? Brilliant, brilliant... I'm more than happy to grab the wisdom of the 22 minutes video. I hope you would somehow found the answer that you are looking at. 

Peace, Love and Compassion to all mankind. May we be under His protection and acceptance.

Moscow Domodedovo Airport

Flight date & time: 24th October, 1750 hours

For the travelogue entry, I usually will write about the stations of the trains, buses, taxis, boats and airports that we reached beside all places of attraction. Therefore, it will take me sometime to snap photos around these stations and airports after we have done with ticket check-in. The same thing I did as soon as we arrived at Domodedovo station. After the cab driver dropped us at the check-in lane, I snapped few of the external fa├žade. We looked for a right counter, check-in the luggage and send a fragile items bag to the designated area. My children after sometime, did not had any interest for gifts from abroad. None ever requested. But Syahirah said it would be good if I can brought home some local snacks and drinks. Since we both had our boarding pass, I told Ane that we could go separate ways as I had some photo snapping and shopping to be done after an urgent business in the toilet. Wandering around this huge airport reminded me of other famous international airport like Dubai, Doha and our own KLIA.

Moscow has 4 international airport, Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, Vnukovo and Ostafyevo. The airports vary in distances from the MKAD beltway. Domodedovo is the farthest at 22 km, Vnukovo is 11 km, Sheremetyevo is 10 km and Ostafievo, being the nearest located about 8 kilometres from MKAD. MKAD means The Moscow Automobile Ring Road, served as the administrative boundary of Moscow city. Domodedovo International Airport is claimed as the largest airport of Russia and Eastern Europe in terms of passenger traffic. It is Moscow's only privately owned airport, the owner is believed to be the Russian businessman, Dmitry Kamenshchik. The airport is named after the town of Domodedovo, on the territory of which it is located.

In 2014, total passenger traffic of the airport amounted to more than 33 million people. Domodedovo Airport falls into the category of the largest airports in Europe according to the ACI Europe classification. Today, 86 airlines, including 42 international operators, 28 Russian and 16 air carriers of the CIS countries, are operating regular flights to Domodedovo. Flights from Domodedovo Airport are operated in 229 destinations, 85 of which are unique for the Moscow region. A journey to reach those Moscow region is accessible only from Domodedovo Airport.

The Airport partners form the most advanced route network among the airports of the Moscow Aviation Hub ensuring the best transfer conditions. Domodedovo is the base airport in Russia for member airlines of two largest global airline alliances, Star Alliance and One World. Moscow Domodedovo Airport is the member of Airport Council International (ACI) and takes an active part in the activities of first professional association representing interests of airports from all over the world and promoting their intensive collaboration.

According to the rating of Skytrax, the independent British agency, Domodedovo Airport was ranked the best airport of Russia and CIS in 2014. Since 2007, Domodedovo Airport is the leader in the nomination “The Best Russian Airport” of the consumer award Star. The High-tech airport infrastructure allowed Domodedovo to accept the landing of the largest passenger super airliner Airbus A380 in October 2009, for the first time in the Russian history.

Moscow Domodedovo Airport creates an enterprises specialized in offering a full range of services for passengers and airlines. The Passenger Terminal is a modern terminal offering services that meet high international standards. Few good international restaurant and variety of fast food outlets are available at the airport. The gift shops and book stores are within reach for those who plan for a last minute shopping. The toilets are well maintained too. I kept staring at the toilet door which are uniquely designed. A job well done by the toilet designer.

There's even more shops and coffee station at the waiting gate. I reached Gate A01 quite early still. A01 boarding gate recorded my last few minutes at the Russian soil before departing home. What a pleasant journey I have been in Russian 2 important cities, Moscow and St Petersburg. I'm counting my days accompanied with a deep prayer for me to be healthy and financial capable to return to Russia with my beloved family. Till next time, Moscow... adios!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Moscow - Saint Basil Cathedral

Date of visit: 24th October 2015

Almost everyone knows how beautiful and pleasant to the eye is the Saint Basil Cathedral. I could just sit at one corner, sipping coffee and stare at this 455 year old colorful church all day. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve seen that from your gadget sitting far away from where it is located, i.e. at the Red Square in central Moscow. It still gives the same effect of admiration. Furthermore, the building has been maintained so well, doesn't faded at all. The building, now a museum, is officially known as the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat or Pokrovsky Cathedral. Take note that the cathedral opening hours is daily from 11.00 to 17.00, and closed on Tuesdays.

We joined the queue line at 12.30 noon that day. It was not that long queue anyway as most of the tourist were enjoying their lunch break. There is only 1 entrance adjacent to the ticket booth, i.e. as above photo. I let Anne sat at the bench and enjoying the scenery of Kremlin whilst I purchased the ticket. The cathedral was our last visit place together. It was such a long journey that we've gone through since May 2013. We've covered 16 countries by air flight, trains, boat and buses within 2 years and 6 months traveling together. There are so many places of interests that we've been at, thus far. A real pleasant journey, I must say, just the 2 of us. I now decided to take a break for at least 2 years, reminiscing those good moments and enjoying a peaceful wisdom.

Back to the historical story of the cathedral. It was built from 1555 till its completion in 1561 on orders from Ivan the Terrible, i.e. the Grand Prince of Moscow ruling from 1533 to 1547 and 'Tsar of All the Russias' from 1547 until his death in 1584. It was to commemorate the 1552 capture of Kazan and Astrakhan from Mongol forces. That's pretty much all the genuine history that's known about this celebrated landmark. There, however, scores of legends. Nothing is known about the builders, Barma and Postnik Yakovlev, except their names and the dubious legend that Ivan had them blinded so that they could not create anything to compare. Historians unanimously state that this is nothing but urban folklore. Take note that the same folklore were said happened to the Taj Mahal builder, I mean the Emperor, Shah Jahan also took their eyes. Anyway, this world famous landmark was the city's tallest building until the completion of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower in 1600, seated adjacent to it. Its architectural ensemble of inimitable beauty and grandeur has been filling the Russian hearts with joy, excitement and pride.

The original building, known as Trinity Church and later Trinity Cathedral, contained 8 side churches arranged around the 9th, central church of Intercession. The 10th church was erected in 1588 over the grave of venerated local saint Vasily or Basil. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the church, perceived as the earthly symbol of the Heavenly City, as happens to all other churches in Byzantine Christianity. It was popularly known as the "Jerusalem" and served as an allegory of the Jerusalem Temple in the annual Palm Sunday parade attended by the Patriarch of Moscow and the tsar.

The capture of Kazan was the reason for the construction of the cathedral in keeping with the vow made by the czar, but the program of dedicating the cathedral’s side churches was wider than that. It reflected major events of the Russian spiritual life of the second half of the 16th century such as the appearance of a new icon of St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker in the land of Vyatka, and the glorification of saints particularly venerated by the Russian ruler, St. Alexander of Svir, St. Varlaam of Khutyn and St. Vasily the Blessed of Moscow, Fool for Christ.

The building is shaped as a flame of a bonfire rising into the sky, a design that has no analogues in Russian architecture. Dmitry Shvidkovsky, in his book Russian Architecture and the West, states that "it is like no other Russian building. Nothing similar can be found in the entire millennium of Byzantine tradition from the fifth to fifteenth century ... a strangeness that astonishes by its unexpectedness, complexity and dazzling interleaving of the manifold details of its design". The cathedral foreshadowed the climax of Russian national architecture in the 17th century.

As part of the program of state atheism, the church was confiscated from the Russian Orthodox community as part of the Soviet Union's anti-theist campaigns. It has been operated as a division of the State Historical Museum since 1928. It was completely and forcefully secularized in 1929 and remains a federal property of the Russian Federation. The church has been part of the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990. It is occasionally being mislabelled as the Kremlin owing to its location on Red Square in immediate proximity of the Kremlin.

Architectural specialists are to this day unable to agree about the governing idea behind the structure. Either the creators were paying homage to the churches of Jerusalem, or, by building eight churches around a central ninth, they were representing the medieval symbol of the eight-pointed star. The original concept of the Cathedral of the Intercession has been hidden from us beneath layers of stylistic additions and new churches added to the main building. In fact, when built, the Cathedral was all white to match the white-stone Kremlin, and the onion domes were gold rather than multi-colored and patterned as they are today. We were happened to be at the centre church, the ninth when a group of choir, 4 mens started singing a songs from the Holy Book. As it was in Hebrew, which sounded more like Italian, I could not figured out whether it was the collection of song from the Psalm. It was such an harmony sound that fills the entire area.

The Soviet Union, at one time, did having a serious thought of demolishing the cathedral. It was mainly because it hindered Stalin's plans for massed parades on Red Square. The courage of the architect Pyotr Baranovsky has saved the Saint Basil from historical disappearance. When ordered to prepare the building for demolition, he refused categorically, and sent the Kremlin an extremely blunt telegram. The Cathedral remained standing, and Baranovsky's conservation efforts earned him five years in prison. During restoration work in the seventies, a wooden spiral staircase was discovered within one of the walls. Visitors now take this route into the central church, with its extraordinary, soaring tented roof and a fine 16th Century iconostasis. You can also walk along the narrow, winding gallery, covered in beautiful patterned paintwork. One service a year is held in the Cathedral, on the Day of Intercession in October.

We spent less than an hour inside as we both kept looking at the time, feeling worried if we will be late to reach Domodedovo Airport. Though time was not on our side, we truly had a great time, being able to cover at least 3/4 of this beautiful cathedral. It's not wrong to say that Saint Basil Cathedral is indeed a jewel of Moscow. A visit to the city without stepping inside the church would not be a complete tour. My apology for sharing too many photos of this last visited place. I really cannot contain my happiness, I mean having able to record the details of this magnificent place. My main reference for this entry are the Wikipedia and local website, Moscow Saint Basil Cathedral. Thank you for a complete facts of history provided in both websites. I have a full picture of the place and I hope you may gain some knowledge too out of it.

I left Saint Basil Cathedral that day feeling accomplished. Saying goodbye was a little hard to do, hence below are my 2 last photo that I shall again and again revisit in the future, in the event I miss it.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Moscow - Lunch at Osteria Mario, Okhotny Ryad Shopping Mall

Date: 24th October 2015

First and foremost, I must share the link to the restaurant website, Osteriamario Moscow for your easy reference. They have 3 outlets altogether in the city alone. They brought the food, the interior and the whole feeling of an Italian cuisine into the Moscow city. We were in a rush that day and we found this restaurant located on lower level of the shopping mall, by mere chance. Beneath the restaurant is the Okhotny Ryad Metro Station. For those who wanted to have lunch and a tour at the Red Square thereafter, may fried Metro Lines and descend down at Okthotny Ryad station.

Okay, now the story behind the place. We found ourselves at a Manege Square, a large pedestrian open space in the Tverskoy District from where we were coming from, i.e. the Moscow Metropol Hotel after a delightful tour of the Moscow Metro Lines & Stations. The square is bound by the Hotel Moskva to the east, the State Historical Museum and the Alexander Garden to the south, the Moscow Manege to the west, and the 18th-century headquarters of the Moscow State University to the north. The square forms a vital part of downtown Moscow, connecting the Red Square, stretches behind the Iberian Gate immediately to the south with the major traffic artery Tverskaya Street. The place is accessible by 3 Moscow Metro stations, Okhotny Ryad, Ploshchad Revolyutsii, and Teatralnaya. We were down there earlier in the morning visiting those mentioned station.

2 lovely local ladies in the above photo who occupied the next table were very friendly to us. None of them can speak English but words of food are an easy communications ever, suffice for everyone to communicate and feeling love. Both had a kid who played around after their meal at the huge mall. And the 2 best friend were having good time with coffee after the meal while waiting for their children gets tired from running around. 

For lunch, I thought of having a local Russian cuisine. I knew that there are plenty of selection (seafods and vegetables) for Muslim to eat. However, Anne wanted to try an Italian cuisine. At that time, we were right in front of Okhotny Ryad Shopping Mall. The building has a big frontal sign of “Jamie’s Italian”. And seriously, yes, it is a restaurant by the famous British chef Jamie Oliver who finally opened a branch in Moscow city. This is where Jamie’s Italian is located. Jamie Oliver started taking over Russian restaurant market with Jamie’s Italian first in St. Petersburg. The place in St Petersburg has gained a lot of popularity among locals and tourists. Hence, it justified their official opening in Moscow, being second in the country.

But, we did not had our lunch in Jamie’s Italian. Rather, we were at Osteria Mario another network of Italian restaurants also established in Moscow. Osteria Mario had a few favorite Italian dishes, such as a true Roman pizza on thin crust of Italian flour, flavored "Minestrone" of roasted vegetables, fresh pasta and risotto sprinkled with parmesan cheese, strong ristretto, which will lead to life after a hearty dinner and not forgotten their Tiramisu that come with dark chocolate shavings. For such a fine dining restaurant, the foods are charge at affordable prices and with fresh, natural Italian products as what they claimed. Their pasta, pizza, tiramisu, seafood, cheeses and bruschetta and all other favorite Italian dishes and a tasty coffee is something we had no regret at tasting.

Besides, I personally like their set-up. Furniture, dishes, tablecloths, all elements of the interior Osteria Mario had an element of Italian environment. The first Mario Osteria restaurant was manually created with a chandelier of 100 porcelain bells, brought from Venice. A bright and large posters of their charismatic Mario are the decoration of each restaurant.

You may use below entrance, turn to the left and straight by the corner there's a Osteria Mario sign, unfortunately in Russian writing, large enough for anyone to see.

Okhotny Ryad Shopping Mall