A Review – Kino Cafe @ Kinokuniya

If there’s anywhere out there that has to be on the list of “best cafes to write/read/work at”, this would be it. Kino Cafe is located in Dubai’s largest bookstore, Kinokuniya at Dubai Mall. This place is one of my favorite places to go to when I want to write. Everyone is so quite and consumed by the book, notebook or laptop in front of them. I rarely see more than one person on a table. And if there happens to be a group or a couple, they’re mostly there to study or have a business meeting. I love it. I always feel so inspired to work when I go there.

The food style is very Japanese/Asian which means, amazing kinds of tea, not just the green variety. I love to order their iced green tea. So refreshing. It’s like green tea galore at this cafe. Their food is just OK. But I normally don’t care much about eating when I am writing. My goal at kino cafe is always to write, which is unlike going to a place for breakfast and wanting to both start my day with a delicious meal and then be able to write comfortably and effectively.

The cafe is so bright but super small. They have a silent room at the end of the cafe if you need an extra quiet space. Each chair in that room, has a socket and a table for your laptops. No one dares talk in there. They have some sockets on the workstations too, but I hate sitting at the workstations. They’re not comfortable and small and the last thing I need is to rub elbows with some random dude while I am trying to focus.  I take up a booth, which is supposed to be for four people. I always feel like a douchebag when I do that, but it’s the only way I feel I can write and the place is rarely busy so I am not making trouble.

There’s a huge glass wall on one end of the cafe, normally, that would be appealing because of the brightness coming in from the sun. But this is Dubai and we have two seasons, summer and a barely cold spring. Sometimes it’s winter, but that’s kinda rare. Also, the summer lasts about 8 months. I exaggerate to prove a point. Basically most of the year, the place feels like a sauna. I am not saying the place needs to be cold, but the temperature needs to be slightly cooler at this cafe. When you have an open space with a lot of glass, you need to factor in the temperature coming in from the outside. This has happened almost every time I went there.

Another annoying feature is their wifi. It’s very good once you’re connected, but the password expires every hour. I expect this from other places, but this is literally a work cafe. People are expected to sit at the cafe to read and chill and browse the internet. It’s located in a bookstore for god’s sake. That is the main function of a cafe that is inside a bookstore. So it doesn’t make sense to me that they use this system. I feel like wifi shouldn’t even be an issue in this day and age. I really hated having to ask for a password every hour, one for my phone and another for my laptop. The last time I was at the cafe, I was there for 5 hours. I definitely didn’t appreciate the looks I got from the waiters every hour. Extremely annoying.

Parking is a non-issue. The best parking for you if you don’t want to walk all around the mall is the fashion parking of Dubai Mall. It’s the closest to Kinokuniya. If you happen to park on the other side, the cinema parking, then you can take a shortcut through the foodcourt.

All in all, despite the temperature and the crappy wifi system, I’d say this is my favorite place to write. The iced green tea always helps. And I tend to do my research at home to avoid wifi issues.

Here’s the rating for this place based on my criteria.

Coffee – 6/10

Comfort 7/10

Food  5/10

Wifi 3/10

Music 6/10

Atmosphere 10/10

Parking 10/10

Disclaimer: I am not part of Kino Cafe or Kinokuniya nor was I paid to write this review. This is purely a way for me to review and document the best restaurants and cafes in The U.A.E. for individuals who want to write and enjoy good coffee. If their food is good, that’s a plus.

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Bateel Gourmet – A Review

I never thought about reviewing Bateel for my ‘work friendly cafe reviews’ series. It’s not really known for that and It’s been around for ages. It didn’t occur to me. I happen to be in Town Center Jumairah early this week, to visit PaperLane; the crafts store I like to get all my scrapbooking papers from. I was there early, and hungry, and there was Bateel. It was meant to be.

It’s a very nice restaurant, especially for breakfast. And they have the most robust and strong coffee. They like to pair it with a piece of date. I hear the combination is delicious. I am not a date person so I’ll leave you to judge that on your own. They also make arabic coffee, but I’ve never been a fan of that so I have no clue if it’s good. Honestly, when it comes to things that are normally homemade, I almost never go for it at a restaurant. Arabic coffee is a homemade staple at practically every home in the gulf region. But, who knows, maybe Bateel’s is actually good.  Continue reading →

Paper Fig Desserts Review

I am not sure when Paper Fig opened exactly, but I remember being extremely excited about it. I love Sharjah, I can’t imagine living anywhere else, and I’ve lived on a whole other continent for years, so you know I mean it when I say that. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. However, Sharjah lacks a few things, hence the need to drive to Dubai. I worked in Dubai for many years. I woke up every morning, and I drove in that awful traffic you all know and hate, and then I drove back home in that same awful traffic. Driving to Dubai is a hassle. It’s the biggest hassle for me.

I love going out in the morning for breakfast, it puts me in the perfect mood to write and produce. Mornings inspire me. But the drive, well, the drive has the opposite effect on me. Knowing that good coffee and yummy breakfast are only 5 minutes away, is the reason for my happiness in life. You might think that I am exaggerating, but please, take my word for it. Continue reading →

Me Before You*Spoilers*

I just came home like 10 minutes ago. I went to watch Me Before You at the Cinema and for the entire drive back home I was feeling rather subdued. I didn’t cry when the movie ended. I did enough of that after I read the book late last year. I worried the tears will come on the drive back. Some did eventually, but I was thankfully filling up my car with petrol when that happened. I couldn’t stop thinking about Will Traynor and Lou. Would anyone in his position choose to live?

**Do stop reading now if you haven’t read the book or watched the movie. I don’t know how to write this without revealing the plot or the ending. You’ve been warned. SPOILERS AHEAD.** Continue reading →

The Flight of the Hummingbird

For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be something. When I was around 3 or 4, I remember having an oven with plastic plates, cups and food, and I would play pretend with my dad and he would pretend eat everything I made. I want to be a chef, I’ll cook for people because it makes them happy, yes, I want to be a chef, I thought. When I was 8 or 9, I remember writing a story that had come up when I was coming up with a lie to tell my parents about why I didn’t want to do something. I can’t remember the details, but I remember coming up with the story, I had the wildest imagination. I know, I can be a writer and a story teller. It’s fun, and it makes people feel something. Fast forward to a myriad of “I know what I want to be” moments throughout my adolescence and eventually throughout my adulthood.

Continue reading →

Immerse yourself – It’ll keep you going

If someone asked me a year ago, Reem, can you imagine ever writing a novel? I would’ve said no. Despite of the fact that I wrote a bunch of stories from the ages 9 to 13. Short stories mostly, but stories nonetheless. Other memories I have are of me cooking plastic food for my parents in a toy oven, presenting it in plates and expecting them to pay for it. Two things I was sure of growing up, although not entirely during the lost years; 1) I love cooking and possessed the entrepreneurial bug, 2) I had a wild imagination and loved imagining stories and writing.

Of course, the only valid career choice was business related. And so, I went to business school, specializing in tourism. I went to work. I did great, for a while. And then I was miserable. I’ve just summarized nearly 10 years of my life in 3 short sentences. What I am getting at is, that I never saw myself ever pursuing writing as a career. Even now, that I am actively writing. My family doesn’t really know, because I haven’t explained it yet. My friends don’t know either. A few close people know. The world – whoever reads my blog – knows. 

When I decided to write a novel, specifically, participate in NaNoWriMo, I became very aware of my apparent shortcomings. I started wishing I studied literature, at the least, taken a creative writing class. I scoured the internet for tips and tricks, the tabs piled up on my screen as I fell down the rabbit hole and the headaches started.

What kind of music should I listen to when I am writing, I asked google. What’s the best way to say “she walked really fast because she was very angry”, and yes, that is literally a sentence captured from the novel I am currently writing. It’s a place-holder, or so I tell myself. I found a number of books that are supposedly useful for aspiring writers. Aspiring. HA! Another word I hate about describing myself. A word I used to use. I now say, writer, aspiring to be published. I also looked up movies about writers or fiction, I figured that they would somehow help me focus or spark an idea or two. I did most of this prior to NaNoWriMo, as part of the prep I suppose.

On the 31st of October, I watched Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson’s “Stranger than Fiction”. I thought it was brilliant, and it didn’t inspire me. It depressed me a little. Because it was so good and imaginative. How will I ever make something this good? I can’t. Queue depression and self loathing. Ugh, us writers can be very annoying. Jeez. Somehow I got over myself, and on day 1, I wrote.

Day 2 came around, and I wrote. it was tough, I procrastinated, and I watched “Love Actually”. Not exactly a movie about writers, although, there’s a writer in the movie. Anyway, skip this one. It did nothing for me – writing wise that is. I used to love this movie, I’d watched it a few times before. I managed to write despite of the lack of motivation and inspiration.

Day 3, 4 and 5 are a blur. I didn’t write much, because everything I wrote was garbage. I was also in the middle of reading “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes. You see, that’s another thing I’ve been doing lately to help in my writing. I’ve been reading a lot more. I would now randomly pick up a book from my (To Be Read) list and kind of force myself to read it. For research, I’d tell myself. The book was good, but long, and sad. I sobbed when it ended. Rejoiced when I found out that it was being turned into a movie, and then sobbed some more. I was mostly sobbing because I imagined watching the movie in the cinema, and I felt that I would burst into tears when that thing happened by the end of the story. But part me of was sobbing because I barely wrote anything for NaNoWriMo, no, for my novel, and my word count was suffering. The chart on the Nano homepage was mocking me. Thankfully, on day 5, I discovered word sprints and virtual write ins and writing buddies. The sobbing helped it seemed, to get the juices flowing, pun intended. Day 5 gave me my word count, and then some, making it possible for me to take day 6 off and most of day 7 off too. Most importantly, day 5 gave me actual content I was proud of.

You see, all this, simply means that I have survived week 1 of Nano. All it took was for me to completely immerse myself in writing. All my senses are attuned to my surroundings, focused to help me write this novel. Gosh, it would be a shame not to finish it. A damn shame. It’s hard to be excited about something that is this hard, time consuming and also emotionally draining.

PS: Other movies I’ve seen that helped me write and gave me motivation are: (Under the Tuscan Sun – Julie & Julia – Midnight in Paris – Eat Pray Love). There are other movies on my to-watch list as well.  I just realized that I’ve watched 7 movies in about 5 to 6 days. Read 1 book and started two others. I’d rather do this for research than the alternative. Multiple tabs on safari truly depress me.

PPS: The featured image is an alley of the streets of Stockholm, on a clear cold night, in October of 2014 (one of my many travels).

Happy Writing to all the NaNos out there or anyone crazy enough to do this thing.

What lies ahead

When I look back at where I was 10 years ago, I realize just how much I changed. With no prospects whatsoever or any clue of what I was doing. I managed to make it this far. I want to put things in perspective. I now live. I read. I draw. I write. I create.

Once again, as it happened many times before, I find myself on the verge. Looking out with my hand towering over my forehead, eyes squinting, into the horizon. I wait.