Author Topic: zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR  (Read 1551 times)

Offline zow

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zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR
« on: November 19, 2017, 05:38:55 PM »
Overview:
We snagged the August 2017 AC error fares (~$247 pp RT, including the seat assignment fees for the long-haul legs) for BOS-DXB via YYZ. Spent four nights in Dubai, including Shabbat. Sightseeing, relaxing, and hopefully helping my daughter to appreciate the people, land and culture of a different part of the world. We left Boston Tuesday after work/school; arrived in DXB Wednesday evening; visited Abu Dhabi Thursday; did dune bashing tour Friday; chill Shabbat at the Park Hyatt; Dubai Mall and Fountain Show motshash; Jumeira Mosque, Burj al Arab and, finishing with sunset from Burj Khalifa on Sunday, before departing DXB at midnight Sunday night.

Flights and Airports:
Tuesday afternoon BOS-YYZ
  AC departs BOS from a sterile alcove in Terminal B, with no direct lounge access. 
Fortunately, I learned that I could access the main Terminal B area with my AC boarding pass and use the Admirals Club. Does mean need to go through TSA twice but not a big deal with PreCheck and short lines. 
Had about 90-min layover in YYZ, enjoyed the PP lounge, though not much kosher there.
Tuesday night YYZ-DXB
  No matter how you look at it, it is a long flight, especially in Y. The flight was totally full. We had reserved the window and aisle, but gave up the aisle when Mrs. Middle arrived.  The KSML (Hamasbia, IIRC) were edible.  The crew was particularly kind and accommodating.   They were very understanding when I asked them if I could daven in the galley area.  Slept about 4-5 hours (not great sleep but adequate) before davening shacharit.  Then watched TV most of remainder. Davened mincha. Arrived into DXB.
  Immigration line was long. It must have been 25+ minutes.  But no issue whatsoever from the friendly Emirati border agent. On my passport there is an Israel stamp (from 2010–they don’t stamp any more) and the yellow security stickers on the back...no problem.  My daughter’s name is very Jewish...no problem. 
  Got our luggage , walked through the green “nothing to declare” line, and voila into the arrival hall.
  Picked up our Hertz rental (had reserved via PL) — they have a desk just past customs.  Cars are parked in the lot just across the roadway—in a short-term Parking lot area.  Got 2018 Mazda 6. About $40/day, all in.
  Grabbed a SIM card from du    For about $15, I think I got 20 SMS, 20 min of calling (anywhere) but only 200MB data, which was gone in the blink of an eye.  (But no worries, as we mostly used WiFi, and we were actually able to use our regular Sprint — free low speed data and $0.20 min for calls.)
(Lodging and activities will follow in subsequent posts.)

Sunday
DXB-YYZ.
We got to the airport way early—7pm for a midnight flight. Check in didn’t open until 9pm —bummer.  But no worries, daughter and I hung at Starbucks (FYI Can’t use Starbucks app/card in UAE.).
After about 90 minutes helping  my daughter learn how to manipulate equations for velocity, acceleration, gravity, etc., we checked in, made our way through security and immigration, and then to the Priority Pass Lounge.
  Immigration was again a breeze.  The agent was friendly, kidded with me a bit (I said we had a great time and wish we didn’t have to go home ... he said we can make sure you don’t get on your flight!). Makes such a difference in life when people interact with you with kindness. I mean, would it cost TSA agents or US CBP anything to be nice, or at least cordial? I know they have a job to do, but they are also ambassadors for our country.  [End rant.]

We spent about 90 minutes in the Priority Pass Lounge. It was very nice.  Not much for strictly kosher diners.  They did have little cups of Baskin Robbins ice cream. They did not have the StarK hechsher, so I didn’t eat...website says only kosher if the hechsher is present.  :(. Nice bar and nice shower. 

One comment about Dubai airport.  Dan made a point of saying and showing how stunning it is. He was in the Emirates Terminal. I was in the other international terminal (all airlines except EK). It was fine, but didn’t strike me as gorgeous or stunning. 

Flight home was full. Watched a pretty good movie in Hebrew with English subtitles.  The Women’s Balcony. Chatted with some very nice FAs. Meals were from Thailand Kosher and were fair, edible.  The chicken curry was pretty good but not hot enough.  Didn’t realize until after I opened.   Slept about 5 hours.

Unfortunately flight was about 45 min delayed out of DXB unclear why.  We ended up missing our connection in YYZ, so we went to the Priority Pass Lounge for about an hour, showered and davened.  Lounge is very basic, not nearly as nice as DXB, but functional. 

Got back to BOS, I Ubered home, daughter changed and got her to school and me to work by noon!   A little tired and jet lagged but we both had great stories to tell!

  Hope to write future installments on what we actually did while in Dubai, and a description of the PH, with some pix....

Offline mmgfarb

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Re: zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2017, 07:12:24 PM »
Nice start, looking forward to the rest!
"JS [is] a fetid cesspool of unvarnished linguistic manure, with lots of useless drivel and post-padding." -Moishebatchy

Offline sky121

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Re: zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2017, 07:37:53 PM »
Nice start, looking forward to the rest!
+1
Can we get some pics?
"Not all who wander are lost"

Offline a good yeshiva bachur

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Re: zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2017, 08:18:55 PM »
+1
Can we get some pics?
He said “coming soon”

Offline zow

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Re: zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2017, 08:26:52 PM »
He said “coming soon”
:)
Thanks. I'll post a few samples in a minute, but will take a while for the rest of the story.

Offline zow

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Re: zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2017, 08:27:10 PM »
+1
Can we get some pics?
Nice start, looking forward to the rest!

Thanks.  Here are a few just to whet the appetite.  Daughter has most on her phone and GoPro.

Outside the Jumeira Mosque:


Sample BYOK meal:


Sheik Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi:




Offline sky121

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Re: zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR
« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2017, 08:33:33 PM »
"Not all who wander are lost"

Offline ludmila

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Re: zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR
« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2017, 11:09:06 PM »
Thanks, nice TR, looking forward to read the next post. Glad to see you had a great time with your daughter, I have twin daughters and we took a DXB/AUH trip in 2015 :)
I was the Best,still the Best, and will always be the Best.
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Offline zow

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zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2017, 04:28:19 PM »
Lodging:
We originally were going to stay all four nights at the Park Hyatt Dubai. I reserved points and cash 10,000points +$125 per night.  We ended up staying the first night at the Ramada Jumeira, because the first night was going to be only a half day and because I wanted to take advantage of the Wyndham “three stays for 15k” promo. 

The Ramada was very nice. Maybe a 3-4 star place.  Not a spacious room but not tiny either.  They were happy to store our polar cooler in their room service freezer overnight.  We didn’t ask them to do any reheating for us.  We arrived and checked in around 9pm.  We went for a walk...not the most scenic place to walk. Big city blocks, not much to see, except that we walked to Jumeira Mosque and saw it at night.  Pretty.   The bathroom was clean and Beds comfortable.  Total cost including taxes was 500AED.

We spent the remainder of the trip at the PH. From my initial emails with them two months prior, I was already getting the sense that they would take great care of us.  Here was our first email exchange (maybe the language will be helpful to others?):

Attention: Mr. Mattheos Georgiou, General Manager, Park Hyatt Dubai

Dear Mr. Georgiou,

I cannot tell you how excited I am to be visiting the Park Hyatt Dubai in November.  As an avid follower of travel blogs and travel-related social media, I know that PH Dubai is one of the finest properties in the Region.  For me, this trip is a special opportunity to travel with my daughter, to celebrate the commencement of her high school studies.  Everything I have read online and heard from colleagues leads me to believe with great confidence that you and your staff will make this trip unforgettable.

I write with a special request. Because of specific dietary restrictions (at the level of serious food allergies), we must travel with our own food.  We will have approximately 20 individual meals, triple-wrapped in aluminum foil, that have been deep frozen. We will bring them in a specially designed, super-insulated travel bag that is designed to keep frozen food in its frozen state for more than 24 hours.  When we arrive at the Park Hyatt Dubai, we would request that your staff store our insulated travel bag in the FREEZER. Then, as our meal times occur during our four-night stay at the Park Hyatt Dubai, we would contact your designated staff member and ask that the meal be heated in a conventional oven (typically one hour at about 200C, but this could vary from oven to oven) and then delivered to our room.

Having communicated with some of my friends and colleagues, I am under the impression that you and your staff at the PH Dubai have responded very favorably to similar requests in the past, so I am hoping that this request is not unreasonable.  I would appreciate hearing back from you with confirmation that this request can be honored, and if there is any specific person for whom I should ask upon arrival, please let me know.

With sincere thanks in advance,

—-

And their response, the next day:

Thank you very much for your e-mail and please allow me to respond to you on behalf of our General Manager, Mr Georgiou, who is currently out of the country.
 
We are delighted that you have chosen Park Hyatt as your residence for your upcoming stay in Dubai, especially as you are celebrating a very special occasion, the commencement of your daughters high schools studies.
What a great achievement and congratulation on behalf of our entire team. Please rest assured that we will do our utmost to provide you with a memorable experience.
 
Regarding your request, we can certainly assist you with the requirements and the preparation of the food. As you had mentioned, we had similar requests in the past, so I am very confident, that we can arrange the necessary to your fullest satisfaction.
Our Head-Chef Daniele will oversee the preparation and  I will personally ensure that our staff is fully briefed. Upon your arrival, we will store the bag in one of our freezers and the meals will be heated and served through our Room-Service department.
 
We are all looking forward to welcoming you and your daughter in November and in the meantime I remain at your entire disposal in case of any further questions or concerns.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Fritz
 
 
Friedrich (Fritz) von Schoenfeldt
Director of Rooms
______________________

I did have some second thoughts, though, despite this wonderful first impression.  You see, I had been in touch with the Chabad shaliach, who told me that there was a Shabbat morning Minyan that meets in an area closer to the Mall of the Emirates.  From awardmapper, I realized that my only points hotel option within walking distance would be a Sheraton at the Mall. And even that would be at least two miles each way.  Given that I would need to abandon the PH, and given that we might have a long-ish walk and could be pretty hot, I elected to stick with the PH. Would have been great to spend time with the Shaliach and/or minyan, but can’t do everything. Now we have a good reason to go back!

So, the PH was amazing in all respects.  The property is beautiful. It is located adjacent to a private golf course and adjacent to the marina/yacht club, both of which are surrounded by an upscale residential community — nice houses but not palaces. . All of those are accessed through a guard-protested gate.  Given this set up, we found that there are lovely places to stroll, but you can’t really walk anywhere outside this gated community.  All the grounds are immaculate and expertly groomed and landscaped. The PH itself is stunning. Sort of Moroccan appearing, with blue domed roofs and lots of off-white stucco.  As is typical of PH, I think, the interior decor has lots of wood and decoration that is tasteful without being garish. In various public areas, the famous PH aroma —sort of perfume-flowery — is noticeable but not overwhelming. 

The lobby is a rotunda, sort of understated. The have Arabic Coffee and dates out for self serve in the afternoon, as well as bottles of water.  There are lovely sitting areas inside and out.  We didn’t patronize any of the restaurants or even the espresso bar, but all the places to sit looked very inviting. 

The pool was beautiful. Daughter might have pix and I will post later if she has. Palm tree islands interspersed in the pool.  Still could do laps if that’s your thing.  Ample lounge chairs and great service by the attendants who come and set up towels on them for you.  Manu people were ordering lunches and drinks at the pool. 

The fitness center was excellent. Very new equipment. Plenty of different cardio, strength, free weights, stretchy stuff, boxing equipment, with apples and water for the taking. Couldn’t ask for anything better. 

The room itself was terrific.  Pretty sure we just had a basic room with two twin/double beds. We had a nice mirpeset with two wooden chairs and a small round table. We noted that some of the balconies were larger and had a square table that was better suited for dining al fresco.  We will make a note to request it next time.

They had a welcome fruit plate and bottle of wine for us in the room on arrival.  How to handle the wine, I wondered?  I knew they wouldn’t have any kosher wine but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to explain that I couldn’t have The room had a Nespresso machine that the housekeepers kept well stocked and restocked.  There was a fridge /mini bar.  In retrospect I could have and should have asked the hotel to empty it for me, but I just did it myself and reloaded when we were done with it.  Was able to tape the light easily for Shabbat.  The bathroom was awesome. Even nicer than the PHP, IIRC.  Stunning soaking tub. Toilet with bidet separated by a glass door. Not ideal for privacy but wasn’t a problem. The shower was probably the best rain shower I have ever had.  Think the heaviest downpour of geshem you can imagine, and then concentrate it in a 12 cm diameter area, and wow.  The bathroom was separated from the main room by shutters.   

The room and the grounds were gorgeous, but what really distinguished the PH for me was the service.  As soon as we checked in the agent said, yes, we know about your food and we will put it in the freezer immediately. Then, about 10 minutes after getting to our room, the chef and his assistant come up and introduce themselves, review how they will heat and deliver the meals.  Every time a staff member brought the food, it was exactly at the appointed time — you could set your watch by it. And they all had a lovely combination of professionalism and deference. They always seemed genuinely appreciative when I gave a gratuity.   The room service staff was even proactive in asking us if we wanted to plan ahead to have meals heated and delivered, so we wouldn’t need to call back. 

They had no problem giving us late check out at 2pm. They did not charge us a penny for any of the room service.  They heated and brought food to us about 6 or 7 times.  I figured they might charge $25 or something.  Nada. 

Definitely one of the best hotel stays I have ever enjoyed. 

Next up...the actual activities and sights of Dubai.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2017, 05:02:51 PM by zow »

Offline SOS

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Re: zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR
« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2017, 04:58:26 PM »

Great trip report, good to know that they are so accommodating about kosher food.
Thanks for sharing

Offline stbaum

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Re: zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2017, 05:28:39 PM »
Loving the tr! Thanks!
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Offline Dan

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Re: zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR
« Reply #11 on: November 21, 2017, 09:03:41 PM »
Regret that I stayed at the Fairmont over the PH. Though it is hard to beat free.
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Offline zow

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Re: zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR
« Reply #12 on: November 21, 2017, 09:44:06 PM »
Re-reading, and I realize I left a thought incomplete, mid-sentence (hazard of drafting on tapatalk):

They had a welcome fruit plate and bottle of wine for us in the room on arrival.  How to handle the wine, I wondered?  I knew they wouldn’t have any kosher wine but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to explain that I couldn’t have

Should have continued:
... the wine because I only eat and drink kosher. So, when the "bell boy" (is that what they still call themselves, the guys who bring your luggage up to your room?) finished dropping our stuff, he asked if there was anything else he could do. I gave him the wine and explained about kosher. He didn't seem to know what I was talking about, so I wrote a note (yes, I had some second thoughts, but I was feeling pretty comfortable and safe) explaining it, and gave it to him to return.    Turns out, two days later, when we got back motsei Shabbat, there's another lovely fruit plate.   


Offline zow

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Re: zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR
« Reply #13 on: November 21, 2017, 09:45:13 PM »
Regret that I stayed at the Fairmont over the PH. Though it is hard to beat free.
;)

Offline zow

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Re: zow’s father-daughter Dubai TR
« Reply #14 on: November 21, 2017, 10:31:53 PM »
Thursday Activities:
Our first full day.
We checked out of the Ramada and hopped in the car. Weather was great, high 80s and clear.
We toured the gold souk and spice souk. 
Like Dan, we struggled to find parking and, in the end, capitulated and paid 20AED to park in a lot across from an entrance to the Gold souk. 

We were not particularly impressed with the souks. We had no intention of buying anything.  Lots of jewelry stores. Also many stores with fake stuff (Rolex, Louis Vuitton, etc). Every few minutes a storekeeper would come up to us to try to get us to look at his stuff.  Nothing overly aggressive, just a little tiresome.  Compared to the souk in the Arab Q of the Old City of Jerusalem, or even the Machene Yehuda, the souks in Dubai seemed more commercialized, more touristy, albeit cleaner and less crowded. 
If you have seen souks elsewhere, I would say you could skip these souks in Dubai.

We then drove to the PH, checked in, had our first BYOK meal, and then drove to Abu Dhabi and the Sheik Zayed Mosque.  Dan and others have written extensively about the mosque, and our pictures — as much as I like them — are nothing special compared to others’.  Still, a few words and our images:

The mosque is huge and absolutely gorgeous.  Even more so in person than in pictures.  It seems to dwarf structures like Notre Dame and Sagrada Familia. The white marble is breathtaking.  Walking around barefoot (required to remove shoes) is a very cool experience (especially since I don’t even walk fully barefoot in my own home! I mean, what if there is a shard of glass or something in the kitchen floor?!).

The tour was worthwhile. It was very focused on the structure of the mosque itself, and only superficially on the practice of Islam.  I did learn that women have the same “chiyuv” to pray as men, but not as essential for them to pray with a kahal.  Men and women are separated, ostensibly so the women feel more comfortable (not sure I’m buying that explanation). Women can lead prayers for other women but not for men.

The furnishings of the prayer halls are amazing. One chandelier weighs 12.5 tons. The oriental rug is the largest in the world.  There are linear depressions in the carpeting that help the supplicants to align shoulder to shoulder as they pray. 
They face Mecca (they call it the Quibla direction), of course, which got me thinking about which direction I should be facing when davening in Dubai.  I haven’t yet asked my LOR, but from what I read, as people in Israel know and do, the custom is to face Jerusalem, by the closest route.  So, henceforth, I faced almost due WEST!

Back to the tour and the mosque.  We had arrived around 4:15 and had to wait around for the 5:00 tour.  We could have arrived at 4:45 and been fine.  It was nice being there through sunset to see the different colors and light effects on the facades.  I would have loved to see it in full night lighting but we were too tired to stay any longer.

I should also say that they provide abaya for women and white robe for men if not dressed modestly.   Women — even unmarried girls! — need to Cover their hair. And women must cover knees and elbows.  Men couldn’t wear shorts, IIRC.
Entry is free of charge.  There is a metal detector at entrance. 

Would have liked to spend some more time in AUH. The Louvre has just opened days earlier.  My daughter was not interested, and I’m not even sure we could have gotten tickets.  I also considered going for a fancy gold leaf cappuccino at the Emirates Palace. I was intrigued when Lucky posted his pics and story.  But in reality, I wouldn’t drink it out of their beautiful china cup and saucer, and i think that asking them to put it in a paper or glass cup not only defeats the purpose but might even offend.   Not to mention require me to explain myself.  So, as a compromise, I have promised myself a fancy cappuccino next time we visit the WAJ.

Daughter isn’t a big fan of roller coasters, and I’m not either. So, we skipped Ferrari world, too.

Even though our whole trip to Abu Dhabi was just for the Mosque, it was definitely worthwhile.    We drove back to the PH and called ahead so our dinner would ready for us upon our arrival.

Next day’s activity: Arabian Adventures dune bashing, camel ride, and sand boarding. (Coming soon, IYH).