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My return to Dubai. Even more amazing than my first trip

by Fred Maahs, Jr

Man in a wheelchair in Dubai
Emirates Airlines business class
Emirates Airlines meals
Hotel lobby in Westin Dubai
Beachfron lounge chairs and cottages
Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina
Fish Beach Taverna Restaurant
A tasty salad in Bussola Restaurant

After lunch I went back to my room to rest and to catch up on news and emails.  Later that evening I decided to try the Bussola which is the hotel’s Italian restaurant.  Chic, upscale décor with a bar area and outdoor dining if you choose.  All of the restaurant was accessible but I did not see any menus in Braille. It had a simple but impressive menu and an extensive wine list.  I enjoyed a fresh tomato and mozzarella salad and homemade pasta for dinner with a glass of Cabernet.  My server was from the Philippines and she made sure everything was just right for my meal.  This is another restaurant I would recommend that you try!

Breakfast was served early the next morning and our first meeting began at 9:00 AM.  We met with representatives from Emirates Airlines and the Westin hotel to discuss travel packages, accessibility for people with disabilities, and overall impressions so far.  We also met with Dr. Jennifer Camulli, a friend and colleague, but more importantly an expert in the area of inclusivity, especially as it relates to people with disabilities (people of determination).  Dr. Camulli is responsible for the oversight of accessibility and inclusion at the World Expo 2020 being held in Dubai beginning in October of this year (postponed a year due to COVID). Dr. Camulli spoke with us about accessibility and inclusion and her approach to work across all groups involved and responsible for a successful Expo, and how accessibility and inclusion are intertwined and a common thread for each area.

Doctor Jennifer Camuli
Souk Market in Dubai

After our presentations we were taken to a part of old Dubai to visit the gold and spice souk market. This is much like the “farmer’s” markets or places where artisans and others sell their produce, spices, and wares, with one exception – part of this souk market was high-end and selling gold and jewelry. We navigated through the market fairly easily though a number of the stores had a single step to enter – so if you use a wheelchair or have a mobility impairment you will need help.  I purchased some ginger, saffron, and a higher-grade frankincense.  Who knew there were different grades of frankincense? 

After our souk market visit, we left for a cultural lunch experience at Al Bait Al Qadeem Emirati Heritage Restaurant.  We were greeted by the owner and his staff who showed us to a long wooden table. He was dressed in traditional clothing and explained the meaning of this type of clothing. We also about the history of the area and the types of food available and how the United Arab Emirates had traded pearls with other countries for spices and textiles – all helping to make the UAE and Dubai what it is today.

After lunch, we transferred to the Al Shindagha Museum, also in Old Dubai.  The museum is located next to Dubai Creek and is very accessible and while not large, it is very modern in design and gives a thorough history of Dubai.  Each of the rooms within the museum are accessible and even has some “hands on” displays.

From the museum, we were taken in a guided tour of the Al Fahidi District and learned that this is really where Dubai “began” – as a port for pearl divers with pearls as the primary “industry” for trade.

Al Bait Al Qadeem Emirati Heritage Restaurant
Dubai Frame

We left the Al Fahidi District to return to the Westin. It was late afternoon and yes, Dubai does have traffic.  We had time to freshen up and relax for a short while before our on-site dinner at the Westin.  We met at the El Sur restaurant which specializes in traditional Mediterranean food with lots of shared plates, or tapas.  Accessible and spacious, we dined in a covered area outside and enjoyed a delicious meal.

The next morning we checked out of the Westin and we left for the Dubai Frame.  The Dubai Frame is a unique “building” which looks like a giant picture frame, and is claimed to be the largest picture frame in the world. It stands about 493’ high and about 305’ wide.  It only takes 75 seconds to reach the top of the 48 story structure after you purchase your tickets.  An interesting piece of information: people of determination (people with disabilities) do not have to purchase a ticket for museums and public structures like this in Dubai and can bring up to two guests at no charge. Once there, the glass walls and glass floor provide you with views of Dubai.  One side of the “Frame” gives you a view of Dubai’s “past” with the older buildings and the original seaport, and the other side gives you a view of the “modern” Dubai with its magnificent skyscrapers and glass buildings.  The Frame is totally accessible and is an interesting spot for tourists to visit!

Etihad Museum
A castle in the Dubai Miracle Garden
The Miracle Garden in Dubai
Bedroom at Oberoi Hotel
Room entrance at Oberoi Hotel
Accessible bath and shower area at Oberoi Hotel
The Dubai Expo trees in 2020
Man in wheelchair by the beach

We left for a very quick ride to the Address Boulevard hotel. The Address Boulevard is an absolutely amazing luxurious hotel located very close to the Burj Khalifa. Exquisite infinity pools and luxurious restaurants and accommodations, as well as being connected to the world’s largest shopping mall, The Dubai Mall.  The hotel offered beautifully appointed accessible rooms that were spacious, included grab bars, and a small balcony. We had a delicious lunch at the hotel, hosted by one of the managers. After lunch, we then took a short ride to the Palace Downtown hotel, another Address Hotel property. This was another luxurious property that is built on the edge of the man-made lake on Old Town Island but felt like it was in the middle of an oasis – not in the center of Dubai.  Such an elegant but practical property that included accessible guest rooms with accessible bathrooms.

We drove back to the Oberoi Hotel and had some time to freshen up and catch up on emails before we left for our evening entertainment, La Perle.  La Perle is just a few minutes away from the Oberoi hotel in Al Habtoor City, an entertainment district where there are lots of venues for shows and music. The show is the first permanent show in Dubai and features over 65 world-class performers. Its venue was quite accessible with special designated seating for people of determination, with food and beverages available to purchase.  The show is very similar to the Cirque Du Soleil shows that take place all over.

shukraan lakum walsalam ealaykum

Arabic writing