I tend to always choose to hear the bad news first, hoping the good news is a solution for the bad, or an amazing alternative. I hope you prefer it just the way I like it.
Scoring Dubai on a scale of 1 – 10, I give it a 3.5. “I took a 12 hour flight to a desolate Central Florida coastal town with a decent beach and a nice downtown area,” I told Paul. Three days passed before remembering I was far away from the American South.
Note: be sure to rent a car. a DO NOT reserve a hotel room on a dummy card. Even if they say they won’t charge beforehand, they probably will. Trust me.
If the sometimes uncomfortable stares from the locals weren’t enough to put the taste of bad mutton in my mouth, the unwillingness of the gas pump attendant to pump our gas certainly was. I can only assume it had everything to do with race. A car full of Black folks at a gas station in Dubai in the middle of the night can be off-putting (not really). But I get it; I’ve been to Florida.
If you can drive through Los Angeles’ Korea Town and Crenshaw areas, you can certainly drive through Dubai, just be sure to have a mouthful of slurs and words your mother told you to never use ready for the woman in the passenger seat of the Range Rover who’s pull up and curse you for her husband’s bad driving decisions.
Etihad Airline? Comfortable with great movies, food, and drinks. That’s where the goodness ends. The attitudes and behaviors of customer service and counter employees in Abu Dhabi was less than despicable. Part of my group arrived at the airport two hours before boarding and was told they were too late and could not board. Even after being asked “Got that black people Christmas special?”
They weren’t alone. Many others stood arguing with customer service who, with a straight face, said, “there’s nothing we can do. You missed the flight, and we will not rebook you, or reimburse. Good luck.” $800 they spent per person to rebook a flight on Emirates, but had to fly out of Dubai, 72 miles away, and weren’t offered a shuttle for 6 hours. After calling Orbitz, who they booked through, Orbitz also found fault in the way it was handled, as did the Etihad Customer Service rep at JFK who I spoke to on my friends’ behalf upon arrival. I can only assume this is how they plan to make their money back for the “glitch.”
Note To Those Going: Arrive at least 3 hours ahead of time.
Side Note: This Photo From The Garden:
We used Groupon for a few of our activities. The companies in Dubai who use Groupon are apparently the hustlers who, if you’re not used to hustles, get over on weak folks often. Thank God for the strong folks in the group who are also hustlers themselves. Faruq at Gateway Tours tried his damnest to steal our money, but constant communication and letting his know he wouldn’t win worked out for us, and the safari was a success.
The Good News:
While visiting Dubai’s Global Village, we rescued a little Kenyan boy who wandered away from his family and was headed toward the canal while no one was watching. Sadly we were unable to find his family, so we had to leave him with security.
I found a gold and black Hublot watch I once had my eyes on.
Between the 8 of us, we mapped out each day to be sure we wouldn’t be bored, and would do our best to have an amazing time. (check below for my favorite things).
Things To Do:
Dubai Marina at night
Xiao Wei Yang for Lamb Testicles
Dubai Mall (for shoppers and people watchers)
Burj Khalifa Observation Deck (do NOT buy $90 photo)
Club 360 at Jumeirah Hotel(for the party-goers)
Mall of the Emirates
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre (in Abu Dhabi)
Desert Safari (sketchy companies run these, but they follow through in the end)
“Off-The-Truck” Handbags, Shoes, etc. (shout out to the friends who bought the Loubou’s for $100)
Gold & Spice Souks
Street Art / Wall Murals
Always renegotiate the prices
Things To Avoid:
Missing your flight due to the ignorance of Etihad’s Customer Service Agents in Abu Dhabi
Sand Storms (Be Prepared with scarves and glasses)
Someone in the group MUST HAVE international data privileges on their phone
While I know it sounds like HELL, there were actually moments of beauty, happiness, and joy. But they quickly became overshadowed by the bullsh*t. We had liquor, friendship, and cheap rooms on the beach to keep the smiles there in place of the frowns.
I have no intentions of ever returning unless it’s a layover or a free flight to claim property. I have absolutely no intentions of flying Etihad again, and will do my best to get the word out on what they’re doing over there. I am glad, however, that we went at the time we did. I imagine with Black faces becoming more and more frequent, things will become increasingly worse. I predict by June, Etihad will have refunded the remaining tickets.
Great friends, wrong place.
Darnell Lamont Walker, a self-professed traveling foodie, has been found sitting at tables eating baby goat sweetbreads, drinking tequila, and laughing loudly with strangers. The writer, filmmaker, artist, and sometimes photographer puts happiness above all.