Review: Victoria and Abdul by Shrabani BasuΒ 

288 pages

Published: 2017 (updated edition) 

ISBN :  9789387146174 

Young and handsome, a 24 year old Abdul, is dispatched to Agra to present the Queen with a ‘mohar’ for her Golden Jubilee celebrations. 
 The young Indian man, immediately catches the elderly Queen’s attention and what was supposed to be a short trip becomes a temporary arrangement. Abdul Karim and his companion Mohammed Buksh soon find themselves waiting tables for her Majesty. 

Though Buksh remains in the position of  a servant, Abdul escalates to higher positions strikingly fast, much to the consternation of the entire household. 

He begins to share with his Queen, tales from India, who is fascinated by this land she rules but is barred to visit. Abdul Karim becomes the Queen’s Munshi or Teacher and gives her lessons in Hindustani. Over her lifetime, the longest living monarch despite her rigorous duties of ruling the biggest empire in the world manages to finish 13 hefty volumes of her diaries with her Urdu lessons. 

In a country where he was alone, from being a servant, to moving in the upper echelons of English as well as Indian aristocracy, the rise and rise of Abdul Karim was phenomenal. This did not go down unnoticed by the household who hated every move he made and read deeper into everything he did. They did their best to defame him and convince the queen to get rid of him.

Shrabani Basu weaves the tale of an Empress, a mother, a friend and a humble servant with her beautiful words seamlessly blending into each other. The beauty and genius of her narration lies in the fact that this non fiction seems almost like fiction. Who said reality could not be magical? 

The future rulers did everything in their power to destroy the presence of this young man from the face of history who was the friend and companion of the Kaiser-e-Hind in the  last years  of her life. But as they say , the truth will be uncovered someday.  

Interspersed with personal diary entries, authentic pictures, newspaper reports and articles, this well researched book gives a new insight into the Queen’s personal life. Her Majesty’s enthusiasm for the Oriental , her high esteem of her Indian subjects and her dedication to know and understand the language of the country she was a ruler of, all stemmed from one man, Munshi Hafiz Abdul Karim. 

This is the true story of the unbelievable friendship between the Queen Victoria of royal blood and a humble man of no lineage. The friendship between The Crown and a servant. A beautiful story that is also the truth.

Love, 

Zoya 😘 

Link to buy the book – Victoria (Movie Tie-in): The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant https://www.amazon.in/dp/0525434410/ref=cm_sw_r_other_apa_i_GdF.zbB32Y2FY

https://thebigbiblionaire.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/review-my-name-is-red-by-orhan-pamuk/ 

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Review: The Colours of Passion by Sourabh Mukherjee

238 pages

Published: August 1, 2017

ISBN13: 9789385854453 

Hiya Sen, is the Tollywood star who has gone from rags to riches in no time. Her life is a  perfect example of a fairytale.  From the village of Burdwan where survival was tough to the posh luxuries of Kolkata. She is at the height of stardom. Tollywood’s darling gets married to the most eligible bachelor Manav Chauhan. Few days later she is found brutally raped and murdered on a desolate road. 

Why would anyone kill the sweetheart of millions?

Manav Chauhan, handsome with an escalating business and a sprawling fortune is the most eligible bachelor of Kolkata. The business tycoon falls in love with the very beautiful Hiya who has an affair with another man while they are engaged. 

Was he really kind enough to forgive this lack of judgement by his wife? 

Neha Awasthi , ex fiancee and childhood friend of Manav is almost left at the altar by him. 

A spurned woman is a dangerous enemy. What lengths can she go to get Manav back? 

Deepak Awasthi  had to gain a lot from his daughter’s and Manav’s marriage. As Manav walked out of the marriage, his plans for his business were collapsing in front of his eyes. 

Can he take the immense losses in his stride?

Rituja Bose, former Tollywood diva clutching at her long lost fame. A passionate woman who holds her grudges. A public spat on a movie set with the younger actress and the threat of losing the role, is she the one?

An alcoholic model, Mayank has an affair with Hiya while she is engaged to Manav. A distraught lover, rejected by the woman he loves for a richer man. 

Among the starry lights of cinema and modelling, the rich and the famous, the suspects are a galore and ACP Agnimitra has to get to the heart of the crime.

From the first chapter itself , Colours of Passion piques the curiousity of the reader. The suspense builds up as plot thickens. As the reader delves deeper into the book, it becomes increasingly difficult to guess who the killer is. The book also looks into the psychology of the killer and shows us how the mind convinces itself of the righteousness of it’s action. Overall it makes for a gripping read.

 If you are looking for a thriller that holds your attention and keeps you on your toes , this is the book to pick up. 

Love, 

Zoya 😘 

Link: The Colours of Passion: Unravelling Dark Secrets Behind the Limelight https://www.amazon.in/dp/9385854453/ref=cm_sw_r_other_apa_i_n.E.zb1ZGMXN0 

https://thebigbiblionaire.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/review-blowfish-by-siddharth-tripathi/ 
https://thebigbiblionaire.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/review-baaz-by-anuja-chauhan/

Review: Blowfish by Siddharth Tripathi

296 pages

Published : September 21, 2017

ISBN13 : 9789386643315

 

Mukund is every other guy in India. After completing his education, he has landed himself a job in one of the MNCs in the concrete jungle of Gurgaon. Few years into the job , he has earned himself a considerable bank balance, a WagonR and a paunch to make him a respectable member of the 9 to 5 society. Despite having a cushy job where he does the bare minimum and still manages to have his salary reach his bank account, he is unsatisfied and unhappy with his job and his life.

Wallowing in regrets and hating work, when he realizes his company is about to chuck him soon , instead of trying to save his job , he quits in order to pursue his true passion. Though his friends, Chaddha and Sampu crib about their jobs just as much, they are taken aback equally by Mukund’s rash decision.
Mukund on the other hand wants to pursue his calling , but there’s a glitch. He needs to find it first.  In this mess of his life, where every thing seems to be going haywire, he meets Suman who is just as confused as him.

Weeks pass by without him finding out what he wants to do, dejection grips him like an ice cold iron clamp around his heart when the housing society Secretary, Colonel Harpal Singh targets him and makes his life more miserable than it already is. He finds in him a reflection of his estranged son and places him under “house arrest”. Trials in a kangaroo court and a ludicrous duel, the threat of losing everything, Mukund’s life is quickly becoming a perfect example of what not to do in life, or is it?

Siddharth Tripathi’s Blowfish addresses India’s obsession with big cars and beautiful bungalows which are the only acceptable symbols of success. It shows a young man’s courage to take a decision that most would not be able to take and trying to find happiness amidst the rat race of money and power. Filled with quirky anecdotes, the cutely weird and highly relatable characters make the book a delightful read.

Pursuing a passion and trying to find joy in a country where the youth is coerced into believing that money, success and happiness are the same thing, is an act of immense courage. Chaddha’s frustration at losing his job, Sampu’s inabilty to deal with his impending fatherhood, Bumbum’s loyalty towards his employers and love for Fulki,  Harpal Singh’s inexplicable behaviour towards Mukund  and Rani Devi, the desi police inspector are all incredibly flawed, thus making the characters very real. The book is for all the people out there who are not sure where their lives are going and  for everybody else who could do with a few laughs. ( Don’t we all? ) Tripathi’s light hearted narration, with the comical antics of the characters make the journey a deliciously fun ride.

Love,

Zoya 😘
  Blowfish https://www.amazon.in/dp/9386643316/ref=cm_sw_r_other_apa_i_AcF.zbMEHHX7N

Review: Baaz by Anuja ChauhanΒ 

Only those authors who have done things differently,have managed to carve a niche for themselves in this cut-throat competition, to be someone who is loved by the audience.

Anuja Chauhan, by seamlessly mixing Hindi and English in her writing, has made her work very relatable to the urban Indian audience, which not only speaks but also thinks in Hinglish.

Baaz, her fifth book, is a tribute to our men in  uniform. It shows us civilians, how much they give up to do  what they do. A big salute to all these great men and their families who sacrifice everything for the nation.

Why do they call you Baaz?” 

‘It means falcon,’ he replies solemnly. ‘ Or bird of prey. Because I swoop down on the enemy just like a Baaz would.’ 

Then he grins. The grey eyes sparkle. 

‘It’s also short for bastard.’

Ishaan Faujdaar, our protagonist is the adorable Air Force Officer no one can resist. From Chakkahera , a small village in Haryana to the illustrious IAF, Ishaan with his charm and talent makes the audience love him and root for him despite his cockiness.

War between the USSR backed India-Mukti Bahini alliance and America-aided Pakistan, 1971 is the perfect opportunity for the star of IAF to prove his mettle.

His Gnat, a tiny fighter plane has brought about massive destruction to F-86 Sabre Squadrons of Pakistan and has earned him the title of Sabre Slayer.

He is quite satisfied with his life when Tehmina Dadyseth breezes into his life, with her strong opinions, her Freesia ads and makes him question the very foundations of his. Having lost her loved ones in the name of patriotism, she is a  pacifist who hates the very idea of war.

The characters of Kung Fui , Tehmina’s aunt with her incredible sass and sauce; Raks and Maddy, his awesome buddies with their jokes and goofiness ; and fellow Gnatties Jana Gana Mana who are with Shaanu on his quest for glory and adventure make the story memorable and fun.

Twists, turns, war and a beautiful love affair keep the content interesting and the reader hooked.

Enough said, go pick it up yourselves . The weekend calls for some love, laughter and Baaz.

Love,

Zoya 😘

Review: You Never Know by Akash Verma 

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

 

Review: You Never Know by Akash VermaΒ 

It was a pleasant surprise when an advance review copy of this book came into the mail for me.

Synopsis

Dhruv is happily married with two kids, has a satisfying job and is doing quite well in his life.

Anuradha, has been newly recruited by C&M, a very respectable advertising agency to work on ‘Mojo’ – Uni Cola’s latest product.

The competition between various advertising agencies to get ‘Mojo’ is fierce. Anuradha, with her confident ways and ability to stick to her opinions even in the presence of big shots manages to get the deal. This success is also Dhruv’s first as a branch head and victory tastes sweeter as it has come through Anuradha.
The electric attraction between them soon becomes impossible for the two of them to resist and they find themselves warming each other’s beds. This secret, exciting affair was going great but it begins to coil around their lives like a serpent and ghosts from Anuradha’ s past come to haunt them.

The secrets of her past, begin to spill into her present and endanger not only Dhruv but also his wife, Shalini and kids, Kabir and Siya. These people will go to any lengths to ensure that they get what they want.

Will Dhruv, a regular guy manage to cope with this threat to his family? Will he able to protect Anuradha and himself? Will he able to save his marriage? Will he make it back from the vortex of danger he has been propelled into?

Apart from depicting Urban India in all it’s reality, with its hollow glamour and dark ghosts in their closets, it poses several important questions to the reader. Can there be any justification of extramarital affairs? Do these relationships last? What impact does it have on the lives and outlook of kids who have been affected by such relationships? Who gets hurt? What about the person who through no fault of his/her own has to live with the pain all their life?

Love,

Zoya 😘

Review: Maneka’s Choice by Kavita Kane

Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Review: Looking For Alaska by John Green

Travelogue: Dubai Day 1

Travelogue: Dubai Day 9

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It was the second last day of our trip and it had to be made memorable, because the last would be used to shop last minute stuff so like the 9th episode of Game of Thrones this had to be epic.
(Big GoT fan, and since Winter is Here,therefore the reference. Can’t keep calm at all) .

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We have a lot of family and family friends in Dubai, so it was this huge family affair, and it was decided that we would go for a Desert Safari. We had a light lunch since dune bashing can make people feel sick.

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We were picked and taken to the desert via a bus. At the edge of the desert, we got strapped in a Land Cruiser and were tossed up and down as the car zoomed across the fantastic sand dunes.

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We stopped in the middle of the desert, where a beautiful camp greeted us. We chilled in the camp for a little while and got our hands painted with henna. There was sheesha, and a small photo session with Arabian Eagles.

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 A camel ride was scheduled after this which got us more into the desert vibe.

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Next up was quad biking, which I was initially afraid to ride and so I sat pillion. But soon enough I mustered enough courage to ride it myself.

20170428_165131.jpg Doing that, I realised why biking is such a passion. It really does feel great to manoeuvre a bike. Also I ticked off this activity from my adventure sport bucket list.

As evening fell, we moved into the Arabian style camp and were greeted to an absolutely stunning belly dance show and an equally beautiful Tanura Dance. 

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It was followed by a sumptuous dinner, where we gorged on delicious barbeque preparations and some not so delicious vegetarian food.

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Making my way back, leaving the desert, a feeling of barrenness took hold of me. That bittersweet feeling that refuses to leave you, when all is well, and the starlit sky reassures you, but you know it would be the last time you’d feel such things, because it is never going to be the first time again. Because the desert sands have a way of getting in your soul.

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 There’s an Arabic saying which says once you step on the desert sands, they hold you in their barriers forever. Perhaps, it is true. Perhaps it is not. I take in the desert landscape for the last time, the dark sky kissing the tops of the sand dunes, the vast, neverending stretch of the desert, its eerie silence echoing with unknown stories, the winds whispering tales of time. I fill my lungs with the desert air and an unimaginable longing grips me.

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All that we have lost, is it here? Does the stark, raw beauty of the desert hide our sorrows? Is it why the deserts have so little life, because all human suffering gets buried in the sameness of deserts everywhere? 

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Love,

Zoya 😘

Travelogue: Dubai Day 7 and 8

Travelogue: Dubai Day 6- Part I

Travelogue: Dubai Day 1

Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Travelogue: Dubai Day 7 and 8

Now let me tell you something about the malls of Dubai. They are not just malls. They are a different world altogether. It’s not just a place to shop and eat, but to enjoy and experience. Each mall has been constructed with the agenda of making them look like a different world, therefore frolicking in different malls for days at a stretch is not to be judged πŸ˜€

Also I’m a little bit of a shopaholic if given the opportunity, so spending 2 whole days on shopping seems like a very good idea to me.

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Now you see those crazy high heels, I managed to walk in them and use public transport ( taxis not included ) for almost half a day, without spraining my ankle. A feat which would have been quite impossible back home because of the crazy roads as well as my tendency to dream and gaze at the sky while I’m walking. In my defense, I am sky person, if such a thing exists πŸ˜›

The other day we went to Gold Souk and were bedazzled by the jewels on display. All that glitters IS gold, literally. And sometimes diamonds too πŸ˜€

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Dubai has been made with the objective of making it the best city in the world. And they are doing their best to make it so and succeeding too.
Who would have thought that a desert could be converted to this happening place where nothing ever stands still. Who would have thought that the desert could have greenery and rains.
To make that happen the government has installed pipes everywhere which give timely water supply to the plants.

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The maintenance cost of plants is exceptionally high but they spend it to make the weather better and the ambience more pleasing.

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It pains me to see how we cut our trees and have converted a green city with plenty of rain to a hot, polluted city. We don’t have to spend money for greenery and we totally waste the blessing we have been granted with. I think faced with the enormous issue of global warming, climate change and the dangers we are facing, it’s high time we start trying to save our environment. Screenshot_20170705-154055Screenshot_20170705-154209Instead of waiting for governments which is completely penetrated by corruption at every level, we need to save the world. Because no one else is going to do it for us.

Love,

Zoya😘

Travelogue: Dubai Day 9

Travelogue: Dubai Day 6- Part II

Travelogue: Dubai Day 6- Part I

Travelogue: Dubai Day 1

Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Travelogue: Dubai Day 6- Part II

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Buggy ride!

From the dolphin bay we took a buggy to reach the Atlantis Aquaventure.
Apparently it is the best in Dubai and I have absolutely no doubt about it.

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First time in a burkini(almost), can’t afford the glorious tans bikinis provide πŸ˜›

The worst part is though I don’t have any pictures of when I was actually doing the rides, but you can get them if you are willing to pay very unreasonable amounts of money for one picture( according to INR).
The safety levels out there are very high so you needn’t worry about getting injured or lost.

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I was carrying slippers πŸ˜›

After taking a locker to keep all of our stuff we started the day’s activities.
First we took a tube ride through the River Rapids several times. It was too much fun for just one turn. πŸ˜›

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Then another round through the Torrent River which was even better. It felt like we were actually in the middle of a cyclone.
While we were through it we also had a shower in the artificial waterfalls.

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‘Posing’ for a ‘candid’ πŸ˜€

The lifeguards are so amicable and helpful. I got chatty with some of them and it was quite a pleasure to know them.
It always feels good to converse with people from different countries and cultures.

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Check out Atlantis hotel behind me!

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Aquaventure Waterpark has two other segments for rides. The Tower of Neptune and The Tower of Poseidon.

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For my dearest friends who have complained of the lack of this in my posts.

The Tower of Poseidon has Aquaconda which is the world’s largest waterslide. Then there is Zoomerango which has one experiencing a mix of sensations, from mega plummets and vertical zooms with thrilling bursts of weightlessness throughout.

IMG_20170425_175652IMG_20170425_175457There’s Poseidon’s Revenge and Slitherine, two other amazing rides. But my favourite has to be Zoomerango which I did multiple times.

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The Tower of Neptune has Water Coasters which propelled us up and down on jets of water and The Shark Attack where we journeyed through the core of the tower to emerge into the middle of a shark filled lagoon.

IMG_20170425_180328IMG_20170425_181730IMG_20170425_181430 The best ride and my absolute favourite is The Leap of Faith which was a 9 story mega slide which is nearly vertical and hurtles one in a mere second. That kind of adrenaline rush, my goodness, it was crazy!

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Bidding adieu

The best thing about these rides was that my mom did all of them except Poseidon’s Revenge and Leap of Faith, which gave me even greater joy. My experience at Aquaventure was undoubtedly the best I have ever had in my life.

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Twin Towers behind me.

After changing we clicked a few pictures at some places and went to Glow Garden.

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Cinderella in her carriage!

IMG_20170425_204956 Its a great place for photography. The entire garden is filled with all kinds of lights to create some really good art.

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Love,

Zoya😘

Travelogue: Dubai Day 6- Part I

Travelogue : Dubai Day 5- Part II

Travelogue: Dubai Day 1

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

Travelogue: Dubai Day 6- Part I

This was not just the best day of my trip but undoubtedly the best day of my life. We started the day by utilising almost all of the public transport system of Dubai.

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The monorail which took us to Atlantis

 

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View of the city from the monorail

Hopping from a bus, to a metro and then a tram and finally to the monorail which has especially been created to take people to the one and only Atlantis. The monorail ride in itself is a luxurious affair and it gives one a taste of what is yet to come.

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Inside of the monorail

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Stepping down from the monorail and into Atlantis, we made our through the hotel to our activity area.

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Now there’s this fabulous activity in Atlantis where you can actually swim with dolphins and play with them. And I have had this fantasy ever since I saw an episode of Australia’s Next Top Model where the models were taken to Dubai for the finale and had this awesome experience.

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So call me crazy but this was one thing I just had to do no matter what. Once the tickets were done we were escorted to the Dolphin Bay where we were given our suits and then a small presentation followed in which our instructor told us some really cool facts about dolphins.

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Finally we were taken to the pool and we met our dolphin who was Sol. I swear, he is the cutest creature on Earth. All animal lovers are going to judge me but I’m shit scared of animals and don’t let them come close to me. But Sol 😍😍

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Dolphins are such exceptional, intelligent and friendly mammals and am not scared of them.. so yayy!!
We danced, we played, we kissed and we had the time of our lives. And man! That guy got some crazy tricks up his sleeve. Honestly!
It was absolutely fantastic!

DSC_0009-1-1 Love,

Zoya 😘

Travelogue : Dubai Day 5- Part II  Travelogue: Dubai Day 5- part I  

Travelogue: Dubai Day 1

Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Travelogue : Dubai Day 5- Part II

Once we were satisfied by the hundreds of pictures we took in that manmade extravaganza of beauty called Burj Khalifa we returned to the Dubai Mall. 

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Next we went to the Dubai Aquarium ( inside the mall) , where we were taken through a tunnel with the aquarium as the ceiling and the walls.

IMG_20170424_160552IMG_20170424_160810 Since we had taken the explorer tickets we were escorted to a boat with a floor of glass and set sail inside the aquarium. Rays, sharks, eels and a variety of other fishes whose names I did not understand ( the guide had a very thick accent) were all swimming beneath us.

IMG_20170424_164332IMG_20170424_164452IMG_20170424_165149They also have packages to scuba dive, snorkel, feed the fishes and swim with the sharks.
After the boat ride we were taken to the tropical rainforest and being there seeing the fishes I really missed some of my friends; they are such huge fish lovers they would have died to see what I was seeing.

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However the Dubai Aquarium saved the best for the last and we could see adorable penguins. I had the good fortune to see one actually swimming. Penguins are the cutest creatures in the whole world.

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Once outside the aquarium, we spent some time exploring the huge mall. It has some really beautiful corners where a picture is a must – The Waterfall, The Souk , The Souk- al – Bahara being some of them.

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In the evenings the Dubai Mall has a show of the Dubai fountains. Now if one goes at the top of the Burj Khalifa during this time they can see the show from above which would enhance the view so much. The five minute show has people waiting for hours to get a good view of the fountains and the wait is totally worth it.

 

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All in all, it was a beautiful day with some memories that are going to last a lifetime.

Love,

Zoya 😘

Travelogue: Dubai Day 6- Part I

Travelogue: Dubai Day 5- part I

Travelogue : Dubai Day 4

 

Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini