Brazil on My Mind

Rio de Janeiro

The world cup is over, and I have finally recovered my rights to occasionally watch TV in our house!

Anyone else lives with a Spaniard? When there are no important live games on, does he recreate them on PS4, and makes his team win? If you’ve answered yes to both questions then welcome to my life.

Brazil

Jokes apart, I like the world cup. It brings a special festive atmosphere that must be enjoyed once every four years. I am sure you’ll agree that some matches were fundamentally epic this time around. Hint: Germany vs Brazil.

What I am going to miss the most is seeing images of beautiful Brazil on TV all the time. Isn’t that just one good looking country?

Rio de Janeiro

Brazil

I got my first glimpse of Brazil when I visited Rio de Janeiro in 2012. I took away a bundle of fond memories that I will cherish forever. Then I read Michael Palin’s Brazil, which left me wanting even more. It’s such an enlightening book.

This was a business trip, but it wasn’t entirely adventure free. I have encountered few impressionable experiences that I often share with friends and family to feed their curiosity about the place.

I thought I’d share some of these stories with you today:

A stylish companion

Copacabana beach

Before the trip we received a safety briefing in the office encouraging us to avoid attracting the wrong kind of attention in Rio, by keeping a low profile. Rio is pretty, but there is no denying that it’s not necessarily the safest place on earth.

I especially worried about one of my Emirati colleagues, who won’t be caught dead without her Chanel purse and Rolex watch. I had a serious word with her about it and she promised to adjust her fashion choices on this trip.

Guess what she showed up in the airport with? I was surprised to see at least 50 thousand dirhams worth of brands and jewelry on her at check-in. She seemed puzzled by the questioning glares I shot her. “What? It’s not CHANEL!!” She exclaimed pointing at her FENDI handbag.

Shaikha on board

Rio de Janeiro

My own adventure started on board the flight. I was travelling with an official UAE delegation that occupied most seats on business class. We received a very warm welcome on the Emirates flight. The head crew introduced himself to me and proceeded to familiarize me with the facilities and services available on the aircraft. I was beyond impressed by the level of his attention to details.

Before leaving me to it he made sure to set the mood for the rest of the 14 hours flight. He asked me if I preferred to be addressed as Sheikha or Your Highness!!

Finally it clicked; I am the only Emirati female amongst the group called Shaikha, and the poor guy assumed that I was “A Sheikha”. I can totally see why he’d think that, ehmmm!

The cat ate my tongue, I was conscious of saying something that’ll embarrass him or worse, embarrass me.

Remember my posh friend from the airport? I turned to her for an answer, since she has such a smart mouth. “Your highness would be great” She said.

I should have seen that one coming.

Brazil

Rio de Janeiro

Brazilian coffee and other drugs

The next morning, a cup of Brazilian coffee at the breakfast buffet erased all my worries.  I had a second one at the conference, and that elevated my energy to dangerous levels. I knew I probably had enough caffeine for the day at the point, but believe me when I tell you that stuff is addictive. I kept having one after another everywhere I went.

I asked a Brazilian colleague “What else do you guys drink if you don’t want to have such strong coffee?” She handed me a can of “Guarana Antartica”. I only got two hours of sleep that night.

I don’t know what was she thinking, but now I know why Rio is the party capital of the world.

Favela Rocinha Rio de Janeiro

Brazilian swimwear

Buying a Brazilian bikini is like eating a forbidden fruit; you know you really want one but…

Let me just try it on, I thought when I found one in a shop’s window that I couldn’t resist. Inside, I liked five more. I tried one on, and I had to ask the shop keeper for a “bigger” size. Three of them came behind the curtain to help. Soon words like gorgeous, perfect, like model, sexy, and voluptuous were flying all over the place.

High on hard praise, I skipped rationality and reason, and suddenly found myself paying for the stuff.  I convinced myself that it will be my little secret. No one ever has to find out about my little impulse purchase here. Few minutes later a text came from my husband saying “Someone went shopping with my credit card ;)”.

Copacaban beach

Copacabana beach

Rio de Janeiro

The beautiful people of Favela Rocinha

I’ve jumped from an airplane, faced man-eating predators in African jungles, escaped death on a mountain, yet no other adventure made my heart race as fast as visiting the biggest favela in Rio de Janeiro, and in Brazil did.

Favelas have a preceding reputation for being dangerous and fairly dodgy. Many might find taking such tour not a very good idea for more than one reason. Obviously safety is a huge concern, and also you can’t help but wonder who is getting paid with your money.

I didn’t even tell my husband that I was going until afterwards. I knew he’d vote against it, but what I saw there was worth every bead of sweat.

in Rocinha, I met talented young boys; painters and musicians, playful children, hardworking grandmothers and young ladies with bigger than life dreams. People just like you and me.

Sure, the tour group had to pass through one woman’s house to get to the other side of the street; she waved us to hurry so she can get back to watching the local soap opera on TV, and a kid snatched my cake from my hand and ran away before I had a chance to say hello, but that’s not scary! I call that a priceless little cultural experience that money can’t buy.

Rio de Janeiro Brazil

Favela Rocinha Rio de Janeiro

Brazil

Children in Favel Rocinha Rio de Janeiro

First class panorama

Rio de Janeiro

View of Rio de Janeiro from the Corcovado Mountain

Brazil

You know him; we’ve been seeing him this entire world cup still standing on top of the Corcovado Mountain, embracing the visiting nations with arms wide open. The Christo de Corcovado must be the luckiest statue ever made. He gets to view the best panorama of the city all day and night, every day of the year.

If you get up there early in the morning, you might just catch the start of a magnificent nature show. The mist will gracefully recede revealing a stunning city below it, and the ocean will glow at the first touch of sun rays.

Do this especially if it gets a bit overwhelming in the city, because it could. Rise above it and get some perspective.

Lost shots

Have I yet mentioned yet that I didn’t take my DSLR camera to this super photogenic city?

Copacabana beach Rio de Janeiro

For the same reason I warned my friend against flashing her expensive stuff in public, my husband forbid me from taking my big camera on this trip. He thought it’ ll make me look touristy and will turn me into a moving target, which is though possibly correct, just isn’t justifiable.

I mean hello, have you met me? I could have easily been born in Salvador de Bahia, if we’re talking looks.

So I managed few shots with a point and shoot, but the important stuff are treasured on my mind and imprinted in my heart.

Magical night skyline.

I walked across the Copacabana beach almost every night, just to watch the small lights of the favelas bring the hills to live from a distance. Interweaving with rolling mountains and high-rises, each favela sparkled in the dark like a giant holiday tree.

I would start weaving all sorts of mischievous tales about them in my head. Anything that captivates my imagination and gets it going like that is certainly worth seeing.

It was magical.

 Rio de Janeiro at night

Who has been to Rio de Janeiro recently? Is it still as mesmerizing as I remember it?

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