Persian Dinner with Finding the Universe Blogger in Shayan

I was ushered into a private room and saw this guy in a beige chesterfield-like coat with hair on dreadlocks and ponytail, and a Canon EOS 6D on his side of the long table.

It was Laurence Norah, photographer and blogger of and president-elect of Professional Travel Bloggers Association. He is also a founding member of photography collective Light Moves Creative. Super cool guy!

Al Ghurair Rayhaan Rotana Hotel hosted a dinner forum for media and bloggers with Laurence, the esteemed guest.  It was an informal dialog about travel, blogging, Laurence and his developing relationship with Dubai.

We were welcomed with a glass of Doogh, a salted yoghurt drink with mint. As the Iranian bread and starters arrived at the table, the conversations get deeper. My favorite fried eggplant in special aged curd called Kashk E Bademjan spiced up the appetizers. Also first on the table are Mirza Ghasemi, grilled eggplant mixed with fried egg and tomato - my second favorite, and the traditional Salad Shirazi, a salad mixed with cucumber, onion, virgin olive oil and lime juice.

Laurence was born in UK but spent significant years of his childhood in Seychelles.

He took a leap of faith by quitting his corporate job in IT to literally explore the universe, the earth at least. In 2010, together with his girlfriend, Vera, they started the blog FindingTheUniverse. He shares his adventures, fun experiences, traveling tips and photography that has essentially inspired a lot of readers and fellow bloggers since. The name was inspired by his favorite author's common use of "universe" in book titles. Hence, the blog is about exploring the universe, and finding themselves in it.

In the middle of interesting conversation, the mains were served. There was a lamb stew called Gheymeh Bademjan, which is prepared with lentils, tomatoes and fried eggplant (again). Now we can say that Iranians are fond of eggplant in their recipes. In fact, it is known as the "potato of Iran."

We also had a grill platter with skewer of marinated chicken on the bone with saffron sauce called Joojeh Kabab Bedone Ostokhan; beef tenderloin cuts marinated with yoghurt, saffron and persian spices called Tikke Masti; and minced lamb skewers with persian spices and grated onions called Chelo Kabab Kubideh.

As far as he remembers, it was Laurence first time to try Persian cuisine and he enjoys it. We all do, especially the grill platter. The kebabs are well done and juicy. There's no rancid taste in it at all.

The taste stays in my memory, their names, umm, well I could better memorize the description I guess.

One of the perks about being a world-class travel blogger is that he often gets invited to speak in seminars and conferences about blogging and photography. Just recently, he was a guest speaker at the Arabian Travel Market here in Dubai.

He is well-traveled in Europe, in Central America, the US and Africa, and would be interested to explore more of Asia and the Middle East.

There were a lot of random conversation towards him. My Yellow Bells blogger Carla, was able to get logical and practical answers about her questions related to travel blogging.

Laurence has not only shared, but has educated us in a lot of insights beyond travel and photography. We talked about blogging in general. He agrees to the common struggles of bloggers, and he shares some of his ways to get through them. He generously gave tips and shared some points about his writing style.

Then a sweet ending to a very fruitful night courtesy of Bastani Zaferani, the dessert. It is a traditional saffron ice cream seasoned with pistachios that leaves a perfect chilly, nutty and a little bit minty flavor in the mouth.

Awesome night! Thanks Al Ghurair Rayhaan. 

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  1. Thanks so much for this lovely post, it was great to meet you! Good luck with the blogging!