50 Dirhams a Day: New York

50 Dirhams a Day: New York

FIFTY DIRHAMS A DAY

NEW YORK

Nada Ammagui

March 2019

50 AED = $13.62

If you’re spending a semester in New York and are not an engineering student, you are not likely to head all the way to Brooklyn for very many reasons; I challenge you to do otherwise – to visit and to experience Brooklyn for all of the post-industrial, art-filled beauty that it has to offer. My visit to Brooklyn—Dumbo in particular—was a spontaneous trip spurred by an urge to escape, even if just for an afternoon, the suffocating grip of skyscrapers and gridded streets. Naturally, I sought to do this in the cheapest way possible, as walking to Dumbo from Gramercy would not be an option. As an avid user of the NYU shuttles that go from Washington Square to my dorm, I discovered that shuttles were also provided from campus to the dorms in Brooklyn. Once I connected the dots, I realized that I could hop on a shuttle from my dorm to campus and from campus to Brooklyn, all for free!

My day in Brooklyn was not very structured, and I did not have very much planned in advance, but this made for a very relaxing Saturday afternoon. I boarded the A shuttle from Washington Square to Brooklyn, which, as it turns out, takes a very scenic route through Soho, Chinatown, the Manhattan Bridge, and parts of Brooklyn. I arrived in Brooklyn about 20 minutes later and made the small journey to Dumbo from MetroTech Center (the NYU campus) on foot (15-20 minutes). Once I made it to the Brooklyn Bridge and Dumbo, I took a quick break for photos because the view of Manhattan was simply lovely. There were many places to lounge, read a book, or have a picnic in the park between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges (Dumbo is the neighborhood between these bridges), but it was far too cold to sit on the grass, so I kept exploring the area.

I realized that I could hop on a shuttle from my dorm to campus and from campus to Brooklyn, all for free!

After taking many, many pictures of the stunning view of Manhattan, I headed towards Main Street, the main thoroughfare of the Dumbo area. I turned onto Water Street, a busy street with low-rise brick buildings on either side full of shops, cafes, and restaurants. I browsed the several (free!!) art galleries for which this area is known, such as Klompching Gallery, Minus Space, and Janet Borden, Inc. then made a stop at Empire Stores, an upscale shopping space with a few shops and cafes. I headed to FEED, a rustic and cozy coffee shop, to browse their merchandise that helps to support the fight against hunger in the world (drink purchase optional depending on budget limitations).

I then headed two floors up in this same building to visit the Brooklyn Historical Society Dumbo Museum, which offers free entry to students (major win!). Though small, the museum provides a brief history of the Brooklyn area from seventeenth century colonization and colony building to nineteenth century industrialization and war-time frenzy. The museum features a short film about the history of Brooklyn, several little displays of documents and letters dating back to this period, a gift shop, and a postcard-coloring station where I colored in a postcard of the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Photo Credit

Nada Ammagui 

Next, I crossed the street to visit other shops like Modern Chemist, a seller of candles, cards, mugs, picnic foods, and an odd assortment of other goods. For lunch, there were several options. Just a short walk away is Grimaldi’s, a pizza place, and Shake Shack. A meal at either of these restaurants costs around $10 per person (a pizza is around $20, but is large enough to share). Another option was buying snacks from Modern Chemist and heading to the riverfront for a picnic. I opted for a Yemeni restaurant on Atlantic Avenue, about 20 minutes away, a walk that is well worth it. Lunch costs about $12-$15 at Yemen Café, but is served with a soup, salad, and unlimited hot tea. There are also several Arab supermarkets on the same block for perusal. I then headed back to Washington Square, paying careful attention to not miss the last shuttle home. All in all, this day cost me only as much as I was willing to pay for lunch since the ride there and back, the museum, the galleries, and browsing the shops were all free. This afternoon trip was, though cold, a lovely getaway to another borough of New York City.

Photo Credit

Nada Ammagui

 

Nada Ammagui is an Arab Crossroads Studies student at NYUAD with concentrations in Arabic and Art History. She enjoys visiting museums around the world, learning about architecture, and is even trying her hand at architectural drawing. Nada is also a book enthusiast, so you can often find her immersed in a novel when not studying.

Top Photo: Crossing the Manhattan Bridge. Credit: Nada Ammagui.

FURTHER READING

 

50 DIRHAMS A DAY

LITERATURE AND CREATIVE WRITING

50 DIRHAMS A DAY

Fifty Dirhams a Day: New York

Fifty Dirhams a Day: New York

FIFTY DIRHAMS A DAY

NEW YORK

October 2016
50 AED = $13.62

New York! The Big Apple. Some might even say, the “really expensive apple.” For many, living in New York City can be a dream come true. At the same time, however, not everyone can afford it. There is so much to do here, but what can you possibly do in NYC without it resulting in severe depletion of the wallet?

A little bit of geography on New York to begin with. The city is made up of five boroughs – Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island. For me, as a Sri Lankan, the borough that stands out the most is Staten Island, because — unlike Manhattan — the borough seems to embrace its island identity. The mention of the word “island” immediately makes me think of one of two things – a place like home, deceptively small at first glance, surrounded by the Indian Ocean, or the island in Robinson Crusoe, an isolated, uninhabited little island where nobody would want to be stranded for a lifetime.

Staten Island is somewhere in between. It is separated from the rest of New York by the Kill Van Kull Strait and New York Bay. The only direct way to get from Manhattan to Staten Island is via the Staten Island Ferry.

When you’re on the boat going towards Staten Island, look behind you: it’s an entirely different perspective of the Manhattan skyline.
One of the many appealing features about this ferry is the fact that it is FREE! Yes, the four letter word that pleases anyone who hears it. The Whitehall Ferry (South Ferry) terminal is easily accessible from anywhere in Manhattan. You may choose to walk, cycle or take the subway, most conveniently via the R line to Whitehall station. A subway ride in NYC costs $2.75 (AED 10) each. The ferry operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and even amidst a crowd of a couple of 100 passengers, boarding the ferry is hardly a challenge.

A few pointers before boarding the ferry:

  1. Buy yourself a bag of pretzels from the terminal to munch during the ride – $3 a pack (AED 11)
  2. The sea breeze can be quite chilly even during warm summer days, so be sure to carry a jacket

The ferry ride, especially for a first timer, can be quite an experience. Try to squeeze through the crowd and get to the upper deck for the best possible view along the way. The most celebrated of the sights is arguably the Statue of Liberty and you can admire the statue perfectly, as long as you push yourself to that side of the boat. When you’re on the boat going towards Staten Island, look behind you: it’s an entirely different perspective of the Manhattan skyline, a picture that could only look better if it was around sunset.

Photo Credit

Sahan Sachintha Tampoe

 

From the ferry you can also see the famous Brooklyn Bridge as well as the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which connects Brooklyn with Staten Island.  Other sights to note as the ferry sails along are Governors Island, an iconic location during the American Revolutionary War and now a great picnic and park area during the summer. You’ll also pass by Ellis Island, a key immigration inspection station through the late 19th and 20th centuries.

In just under 30 minutes, the ferry docks St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island. You have now successfully voyaged from one borough of NYC to another! It is now time to explore a little bit of Staten Island. As you exit the terminal, you’ll see the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, which is the home of the Staten Island Yankees. You won’t be the first person to wonder how likely it is that the ball would go soaring over the stadium and into the water, given how close the stadium is to the harbor.

Photo Credit

Sahan Sachintha Tampoe

 

After your ferry, you might want to have a meal, and while there are plenty of restaurants on Staten Island, we found ourselves a little restaurant on Victory Boulevard called Dosa Garden. It is about a 20 minute walk from the ferry terminal, and you are almost guaranteed to feel really hungry when you get there. The food is excellent, to say the least, and would typically cost around $7 per person (AED 26). If you are not up for Indian food, fear not. There are several other restaurants in the vicinity that are bound to suit your liking. After lunch, you may or may not opt to return immediately to St. George Ferry Terminal. Whatever the decision, the ferries operate every 30 minutes, so the chances of getting stranded on a (totally-not-) deserted island are quite slim!
FURTHER READING
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Interview with Charles Siebert (I)
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Interview with Charles Siebert (II)
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The Open Door

Fifty Dirhams a Day: Zagreb

Fifty Dirhams a Day: Zagreb

Fifty Dirhams a Day

ZAGREB

October 2016

50 AED = 100 kuna

The common responses I get when talking to friends from the Balkans about traveling to Zagreb are along the lines of “why Zagreb? It’s just a city,” or “there is nothing there, only concretes.” Most people would recommend going to the seaside. I realized, however, during my trip to Croatia over the fall break that Zagreb, the capital city, is quite underrated.

There are at least two reasons you should visit Zagreb. First, unlike the touristy cities on the coast where all you will see is gigantic tourist groups and selfie sticks, in Zagreb you will be able to do some real people watching in additional to the tourist attractions. Sit in one of the hundreds of caffe bars thats serve both coffee and alcohol during the day and observe the daily lives of pedestrians who actually live in this city, or at night, have a glass of wine in a hipster bar next to local artists. Zagreb is an artistic city where creativity can be found everywhere. Graffiti can be seen on the street walls and a seemingly ordinary bar on a normal street might turn out to be a place where artists gather at night. Second, the best thing about Zagreb is that unlike the more touristy Dalmatian cities, prices in Zagreb are way lower, for food at least, which I assume is what you really care about.

Fifty dirhams is around a hundred kuna. As I mentioned earlier, food costs way less in Zagreb compared to coastal cities such as Zadar. In addition to that, all the sights are within walking distance, so you don’t have to spend money on transportation. Visit a local bakery and get a burek, a kind of baked pastry with cheese, meat or other ingredients stuffed between the thin flaky dough for around 7 kuna. It is common in Croatia and something my dear friend from the Balkans would scream for, but don’t get too greedy and keep in mind that it is more filling than it looks.

The best thing about Zagreb is that, unlike the more touristy Dalmatian cities, prices for food in Zagreb are way lower.

Another must is Ćevapi, traditional Croatian minced meat either served on a plate or in flatbread. Try it in the local restaurant Vagabund with fries and onions for 38 kuna, or have it at an even lower price at a fast food place. If you are a fan of beer, do not miss the daily happy hour of Pivnica Medvedgrad between 5pm and 6pm where you can get a “bear paw sandwich,” their specialty sandwich that can go either with meat or Ćevapi, and your choice of traditionally brewed craft beer for only 9 kuna. My personal favourite is Grička vještica.

Photo Credit

Alice Huang

Do not miss the Museum of Broken Relationships, with a collection of objects related to heart-breaking stories submitted by broken souls from all over the world. Some of the stories are typical and easy to relate to, while others are very intense: be prepared for an emotional journey. Admission is 25 kuna for adults. My favorite was an antique watch with a very short, but subtle and delicate description that says, “A gift from S.K. from 1987. She loved antiques – as long as things were old and didn’t work. That is precisely the reason we are not together anymore.” The brilliantly heartbreaking analogy gave me goosebumps.

Finally, visit the Mirogoj cemetery around 15 minutes away by foot from the city center. It is elegant and peaceful and the perfect place for a walk, not creepy at all. Don’t forget to take Tkalciceva Street (whose name you should not even attempt to pronounce) if you are walking back to the city at night. It is the center of nightlife, and you can spend what is left of your 100 kuna on a glass of good wine.

FURTHER READING

LITERATURE AND
CREATIVE WRITING

Interview with Charles Siebert (I)

LITERATURE AND
CREATIVE WRITING

Interview with Charles Siebert (II)

SHORT STORY

The Open Door

50 Dirhams a Day: Berlin

50 Dirhams a Day: Berlin

es-gluck-berlin-graffiti

AED 50 = 10.98 Euros

With only €10.98 in your pocket, you’ve found yourself in Berlin. We can work with this. You’re not in New York.

es-gluck-UBahn_Eberswalderstrasse

UBahn at Eberswalderstrasse

For breakfast, grab a classic brotchen or maybe even go a little crazy and get a Butter Schnittlauch Bretzel — a delicious classic pretzel or pretzel stick sliced and filled with butter and chives — if it suits your taste. They are top notch in the stand on the U6 platform at Stadtmitte (or at least I like and eat them often, whatever that’s worth — but what else do you have to go off of except my opinions in this article?) and only cost €1.20.

Berlin is very walkable, especially the stretch of Unter den Linden which leads you all the way from the Brandenburg Gate to Museum Island and then finally to Alexanderplatz where by that point it is called Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse. This route is a nice walk in either direction, and along the way you’ll pass the memorial in Bebelplatz in front of a Humboldt University Library that commemorates the book burnings that were organized by students and took place in 1933. The memorial is a glass square set into the ground through which one can view empty bookshelves, symbolizing the books lost in the fire. Museum Island is beautiful to walk through even if you don’t have time (or funds) to see the insides of its many museums.

es-gluck-From-a-Distance-Fernsehturm_Alexanderplatz

Looking toward Alexanderplatz

While this walk along Unter den Linden is great and the central area ‘Mitte’ of Berlin is very walkable, you may still want to buy a Berlin AB public transport day pass for €6.70 since it will get you around faster than anything. With a day pass, you can use any bus, U-Bahn (train/metro) or S-Bahn (train that stops less, goes longer distances). Or, you could keep in mind that a single ticket is €2.60 and be careful with when you use your single trip. Alternatively you can rent a bike for around €5, but be sure to check return times. A metro pass, carefully planned single trip, or bike is useful in the evening (or just when it’s cold) for hopping around to free events.

When you’re finished walking around Mitte, hop on your chosen means of transportation and if the weather is good, head to Tempelhofer Feld. The old converted airfield is the perfect park for a picnic. Bring a friend and food. Walk around, make a few more friends among the field mice, and climb on the bales of hay.

es-gluck-tempelhofer-Feld

Tempelhofer Feld

Now for a meal. There are lots of options. I’ll list a few in different areas, and you can choose which to do for each meal depending on your location.

If you’re near Mitte or anywhere off the U6, Mehringdamm isn’t far. The Mehringdamm stop hosts the most famous döner stand — Mustafa’s Döner Kebab, as well as Curry 36, a famed currywurst vendor. Expect to spend around €3.00 at either place.

If you’re near Eberswalderstrasse in Prenzlauer Berg, Konnopke’s Imbiss is located under the tracks and is also known for its currywurst. Also around €3.

If you’re near Oranienstrasse or Görlitzer Bahnhof in Kreuzberg, Rissani is a Lebanese establishment with delicious falafel for only €2 It’s the best I’ve had in city so far. Maybe buy an extra.

If you’ve ventured down to Neukölln, Sahara Imbiss serves excellent tofu, falafel, or other meat sandwiches drizzled in delectable peanut sauce for around €3. They claim their cuisine is Sudanese, but they seem to have adapted aspects of Sudanese cuisine to the tastes and preferred or popular dishes of Berliners. Personally, I believe the peanut sauce is a welcome addition and improvement on any food item.

With your döner, wurst, or falafel in hand, venture to the East Side Gallery and see the famous graffiti for free. One can also freely stroll through the Tiergarten (Berlin’s Central Park) or Park am Gleisdreieck (Kreuzberg) in good weather.

Since we’re limited to the equivalent of 50 dirhams, in lieu of the (wonderful) large art museums and institutions, check out www.index.de for free gallery openings and events happening for the given night. Free events don’t always mean free refreshments, but you never know.

If by whatever combination you’ve concocted of the above recommendations you’ve managed to still have around €1 or 2 left on you, stop by a Spätkauf (convenience store) for a cold drink or snack and take it for a walk along the Spree or Landwehrkanal.

Choose wisely.

[Photo Credits: Diana Gluck]

50 Dirhams a Day: Abu Dhabi

50 Dirhams a Day: Abu Dhabi

2014-10-reyes-eldorado

If you are looking to take a break from the overwhelming daily pace of Abu Dhabi, commit to an afternoon exploring the city. You’ll be surprised how far 50 dirhams will get you.

Catch the number 5 bus to the Al Mina Port. Get off at the Electra Street stop, which is about thirty minutes from Marina Mall.

Walk facing Electra, with your back to the park. Pay no mind to your fellow pedestrians’ hasty rhythm. Relax as you leisurely make your way down the street, watching people go by, and take note of all the little shops and restaurants that tickle your senses. Stop at any of them that strike your fancy, but I recommend you go on.

Keep going until you find yourself face to face with the majestic El Dorado Cinema. There’s no way to miss the vibrant lights on its facade. The city’s first-ever movie theater, the El Dorado stands as a proud memento from another era, completely out of place between the modern structures that surround it. A small number of dirhams will get you into a showing of one of the South Indian films they feature, from afternoon matinees to evening screenings.

The entrance to the theater is on the other side of its Electra St façade. Across from the El Dorado there is a restaurant of the same name. Complement your movie with a delicious Southern Indian traditional meal for no more 15 dirhams. Be sure to try their delicious masala tea and chat with the owner, Omer. He tells interesting stories about the theater if you ask!

Hang around the shops in this superblock until at least 6pm, when the sun has set and the monumental “El Dorado” neon sign of the theater is turned on. The radiance of its raw lightbulbs is awe-inspiring. The whole area gleams in shades of bright blue and pink, with the light reflecting off all kinds of surfaces under the splendor of the sign. With the flick of a lightswitch, the street is saturated in the glamor of the 80s. Only the sweet syrupy scent of kanafeh from neighboring street vendors will remind you that you’re on Electra Street.

50 Dirhams a Day: NYC

50 Dirhams a Day: NYC

AED 50 = $13.61

New York is so beautiful in the morning that it’s worth losing a little sleep to watch the sunrise spill over the building tops. If you need added incentive, this city flows with coffee.

Begin your day in Union Square, watch the city come alive, and partake in some free entertainment — there’s always something going on at Union. Watch out for the ‘bad luck’ circles drawn in white chalk on the concrete: it’s like a giant game of hopscotch across the pavement.

From Union, walk down 3rd Avenue to 13th street and find Everyman Espresso. This white-tiled industrial-style cafe makes exceptional,coffee; their tea is also worth trying. Both cost around $3, assuming you don’t tip anyone.

After you’ve had your caffeine fix, walk across 13th Street until you hit Fifth Avenue. Wander the street, admiring items you will probably never own. When you get sick of the acute contrast between reality and dreams, grab a $1.50 bagel from a street cart and munch with vehemence. Your stomach can be satisfied, even if your capitalist instincts aren’t.

One of the best free things to do in New York is museum hop. As an NYU student, admission is free to some of the city’s top museums—the Rubin Museum, on 17th and 7th, is within walking-distance and currently exhibiting Francesco Clemente: Inspired by India. If you spend $2.50 (a bagel and a half!) on a subway ride to 86th Street, you can enjoy the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (donation-based entry), which affords stunning views over midtown Manhattan.

Despite the bagel, you might want more to eat. Wince as you spend another $2.50 on a subway ride back to Astor Place, from which you can walk to St. Mark’s Place (8th street) and grab a falafel sandwich from Mamoun‘s. This is the realest deal in NYC: the falafel delivers crunch without grease, and the tahini is as piquant and smooth as the lettuce is crisp. The culinary experience is well-worth $3.50, especially if you have been craving a taste of Abu Dhabi.

From Mamoun’s, head down 2nd Ave until you hit East Houston Street, and then follow it down to the harbor. Try to make it to the water before sunset. Then you can follow the main road to the Williamsburg Bridge and admire the scene suspended above the water.

Enjoy the way that time passes, and let go of a few minutes while you confront the myth of New York City: every image feels like an iteration but also a completely new experience, from brick buildings to steaming street grates.

P.S You have $.61 in change. You should have tipped the barista at Everyman.

ayson-brooklynbridge

Lower Manhattan as seen from Brooklyn, with the Freedom Tower at left and the Brooklyn Bridge at right.

Photo by Tessa Ayson.

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