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  • Writer's pictureEllie Hamilton

The year of 40

Hello one and all, I am back with another jam-packed blog post, which is a bit like how life has been recently…completely jam-packed.

It’s been a solid 5 months since I left you and I don’t feel like life has stood still in that time, and to be honest when you’re running around after an incredibly active 14-month-old (who is literally running) I don’t think I have stood still.

So in this blog post I am going to give you the highlights of the recent weeks which include a no-kids girls trip to Dubai (I’m still buzzing from it), the search for Emma’s new school which she will start in September, my new found love for boxing, dipping my toes back into the events game and a quick review of our most recent brunch trip to the Crowne Plaza OCEC.

Right, to kick things off, I know in the last blog I mentioned that I would tell all about our first family holiday as a four to Turkey. We went to Marmaris which isn’t too far from Muscat, it was about a 7-hour flight in total with a brief transfer in Istanbul.

The absolute kicker on day one though was getting puked on by Teddy and then Turkish airlines didn’t put our luggage on the transfer flight so I was in sick stained clothes throughout my first day, lovely jubbly!

Marmaris as a location is very beautiful and if you focus on the marina side it has some great bars and restaurants, however the main strip is full of people trying to sell you fake brands and a lot of the restaurants literally have the same menu.

The main reason for our holiday destination was that we were meeting Danny’s parents and his brother, plus his brother’s girlfriend’s family were also going, so it was great to explore somewhere new together. We stayed at The Emre Beach Hotel, which was very family friendly, and the all-inclusive buffet was fairly good with enough variety to have breakfast there most days.

On one of the days, we decided to hire a boat to take us out for the day and I would definitely recommend doing this if ever you find yourself in Marmaris as it really captures how picturesque it is plus the water is crystal blue.

Big thank you to Danny at this point for staying behind with the youngest so Emma and I could enjoy ourselves!!

The highlight of the holiday though was seeing Danny’s brother propose to our future sister-in-law – he couldn’t have chosen a nicer spot to do it in!

Emma is currently going to school at the kindergarten (KG) next to where she went to nursery. We decided to leave her where she was as she was settled at Chapter One and the transition from nursery to KG was seamless. However, I needed to start the search for a British curriculum school that she could start Grade 1 in September 2023. The search has been, at times, challenging as some people’s lack of communication and lack of knowledge has been infuriating, and it has ultimately made me think ‘well, if you aren’t great in coming back to me when I’ve sent a simple email or have not followed up after coming to see your school, how good is your communication going to be when I have registered my daughter and you have my money’.

There are several options in Muscat for schools offering the British curriculum. There are also some highly recommended schools offering the International Baccalaureate (IB curriculum), however we wanted to focus solely on those just offering the British curriculum.

The most popular British schools you will hear of are The British School Muscat (BSM), Cheltenham Muscat, Royal Flight School, KGIS, TLC International, AGS, Muscat International School (and there are more, but these are the main ones we considered).

The challenge we had was that there are differing views on all the schools, plus we had to consider the fees. One of the more popular schools had an admin fee of 2,700 OMR (£5,700), now this is just purely a fee to register your child with the school.

The annual school fee on top of this is 5,100 OMR (£10,800), so unless we had heard exceptional things about the school it was already on the veto list, plus I hadn’t had great communication from the school either, so they had not blown me away.

In the end we settled on TLC International which is a primary school in Azaiba. I went to see it originally with my mum and sister when they visited and we all agreed it had a really warm feeling to it, and it reminded me of my primary school in the UK. The other plus points were that I loved seeing all the children’s art featured on the walls, they have a great extra curriculum programme and the bonus is their communication excels any other school that we visited.

Towards the end of last year, I re-joined the Muscat Mums committee and supported them with putting on the annual Christmas event for their members and families. I cannot deny, that buzz of working on an event and seeing it come to life, was bloody amazing. The team pulled in some great sponsors so we could make the event what it was, and we had 300 people in attendance on the day. Just seeing all the families and the children having a great time was the complete icing on the cake.

I’ve mentioned them in a previous blog but, Muscat Mums is non-profit support community for families in the Muscat area and they have been invaluable to me whilst living in the Middle East. I have met so many great people through them and if you move to Muscat and have young children it is an organisation you should definitely join.

Last year on my UK visit, I met with all my lovely friends that I had made at my NCT classes when I was pregnant with Emma.

We went for a bite to eat in Altrincham, and it was here we decided that we would go on a kids-free trip to Dubai in March 2023…some would have thought it was a pie in the sky moment, but low and behold we actually did it!

On the 10 March I took a flight, BY MYSELF, to Dubai and met my friends who all flew in from Manchester. Just walking through the airport with minimal luggage and no children attached to me felt like a luxury. None of us had been to Dubai before, and we had probably the best weekend we could have asked for. We booked an airbnb apartment which could not have been a better location for us, as it was a 5 minute walk from The Dubai Mall and it literally had the best view of the Burj Khalifa.

On our first night we decided to book into KOYO, which is described as oriental inspired restaurant located within The Intercontinental in the Dubai Marina. Friday nights at KOYO are ‘SUMOSASS’ and you pick from a set menu with drinks package and prices start from 375 AED. It’s very much a ‘dining experience’ as not only do you get some very good food, but also an immersive show too which happens in snippets throughout the night, so you get to enjoy the production, but also talk to your friends too – I would highly recommend it.

On our second day we ventured onto the Palm, to go to the Saffron brunch at The Atlantis Hotel which is adults only and when I told Danny I had booked it his exact words were ‘are you sure you girls want to go there, I’ve heard it can go OFF’. Well, I can confirm it did go ‘OFF’ and it was quite possibly the best brunch I have ever been too. The food was incredible (it was hard to tear myself away from the Pork charcuterie station) and the drinks on offer were very good as well. Packages start from 495 AED and are well worth the money!

The entertainment was electric and got everyone up on the dance floor (the frozen margarita might have had something to do with that too though).

After the brunch (don’t call us crazy) we had booked to go up to the top of the Burj Khalifa, well the 145 floor, which isn’t quite the top, but it was quite a hefty amount to go to the very top. As you can imagine the views were amazing and a kind man took a professional group photo of us, only to then want to charge me £80 for a hard copy of it…I politely declined. Would I go to the top again, probably not, it’s one of those, once you’ve done it, you probably don’t need to do it again.

We finished off the evening with a pit stop to the Time Out Market Hall, which again I highly recommend as it has a plethora of food options and a couple of bars, and as a brucie bonus it has a fantastic view of the infamous Dubai Fountains.

The trip was, hands down, amazing but it was also because of the people I was with.

I feel very lucky to have met a group of like-minded, funny, and kind women all because we were having a baby at similar times and I know it will be a lasting friendship.

I have officially called 2023 the year of 40, and if you hadn’t guessed, it’s because I’m turning 40! So due to this little fact I am on a quest to get fit and no, not be on an endless diet, because after years of practice they don’t work, I mean get fit as in ‘STRONG’ fit! I did it in lockdown, thanks to The Body Coach plus there was little else to do, but now I am using the help of FITBOX, a boxing gym which is located in Mawaleh and they have just opened a branch in Al Khuwair.

I go to their Muay Thai class in Mawaleh twice a week (soon to be three times) and I am literally hooked (excuse the pun). The class is tough, but the endorphins after the class are euphoric and it is a lot of fun to punch and kick a bag when you’re having a challenging week with the kids! If this has piqued your interest at all, the first lesson is free, and you can take a look at the gym schedules here.

Last week a group of us took ourselves off to the Crowne Plaza OCEC for the last brunch of the season as Ramadan starts today and then after that it just gets too hot to do very much. I hadn’t been to the Crowne Plaza OCEC since pre covid, but I did recall that it was a very fun brunch.

So, did it reach expectations this time round? Yes and no would be my answer. The entertainment and games are back on form i.e. beer pong, adult musical chairs, hula hoop competition etc, but I don’t feel that the food was that great, especially when comparing it to the Crowne Plaza Muscat which seems to have a lot more variety and the quality in general just seemed a lot better.

There also seemed to be the clash of the DJs going on as the brunch DJ was playing some good tunes, but then we were sat next to the DJ booth for the pool party so at one point all you could hear was two different styles of music which didn’t really add to the ambiance. They did eventually stop the pool party DJ for a while which was appreciated, but it did take a good 20 minutes to sort out.

Final verdict: I would potentially go again if I was with a large group of people for the entertainment element, but if I was looking to go for the food and drink as a focus I would probably opt to go elsewhere.

In the next blog (which I am holding myself accountable for and will post once next month - fingers crossed) I will catch you up with what we did during Ramadan, the low down on a mini break to Abu Dhabi with the little ones in tow and how the year of 40 is going!

Ramadan Mubarek!

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