Great Eats in Dubai

Great Eats in Dubai

Eats in Dubai

One thing for sure when visiting Dubai, you will never go hungry.  There are so many restaurants in town I’m pretty sure you’ll find something to suit you, unless you have a hankering for Sweet & Sour Pork or a rack of baby back ribs that is.

(Pork is sold in some restaurants, but the pickings are very slim and in my experience not very well prepared.  If pork is on the menu or on the buffet you will find a limited selection that will be clearly labeled as containing pork.)

Dubai is home to many of your favorite fast food franchises and restaurant chains.  McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, just to name a few, are in all the malls and around town.  Chili’s, TGIF, IHOP, Red Lobster, Outback, and many others have places in the malls and around town as well. You’ll also find local franchises and chains as well as those from around the world which we Americans aren’t always familiar with.
In short Dubai is truly a melting pot of culinary delights.

When we travel we prefer to eat at local restaurants and sample the area’s cuisine; but I have to admit that a Quarter Pounder at McDonald’s or a pan pizza at Pizza Hut can be comforting when you’ve been abroad for a while and are missing home.  That’s why every so often we’ll grab a quick lunch at one of those familiar places.  (Half-way thru a 10 day Baltic Cruise a few years ago my daughter spotted a McDonald’s in the old town area of Tallin, Estonia and insisted on having a cheeseburger. She never eats them at home, but said she was tired of cruise and foreign cuisine, she just had to have something familiar.)

But really one of the best parts of traveling is trying different foods at local establishments.  Dining like the locals is a great way to experience the culture of the areas you’re visiting.  Dubai is no exception, they have many fine restaurants that serve traditional Middle East cuisine as well a cuisine from around the world.  So yes do pop in at Chili’s or Pizza Hut when you’re in need of some familiar comfort food, but don’t leave town without  at least trying something different.

Here are some of my favorite Dubai restaurants I hope you’ll check one or two out, you might go home with a new favorite dish!

Eats in DubaiAl Halabi Restaurant located in the Fashion Dome section of the Mall of the Emirates is our all time favorite for Lebanese cuisine.

You can’t miss it, it’s on the right side of the fountain on the ground level in the Fashion Dome section of the mall.  (PF Chang’s is near by and Fauchon is across the aisle).

From mezzes to dessert this place serves delicious Arabic food and has very good service.
It is a bit pricier than other Middle East restaurants in the same mall, but it’s truly worth the price.  We eat here several times whenever we’re in town.

They offer a variety of hummus, baba ganouj, toum (garlic dip), and other dips all served with freshly baked pita bread.  If you’re not too hungry just order a variety of mezzes including stuffed grape leaves and you’ll walk away pleasantly full.

If you’ve a heartier appetite follow up the mezzes with one of their grilled meats.  I love their Shish Tawook (chicken skewers) which I order with rice instead of fries.  My husband and grandsons love the lamb chops and lamb kebobs.  We usually order the mixed grill for them, it comes with 3 kebobs (lamb cubes, chicken, and ground lamb) and french fries.

Every meal is served with salad, actually salad makings.  The waiter will bring out a tray of fresh veggies including lettuce, tomato, cucumber, lemon, and green onions.  Cut it and fix it the way you wish.

We always round out the meal with dessert.  Their Kunafa is very good as is their Muhalubia (pudding) and Creme Caramel.  There are so many different desserts to choose from it’s hard to pick just one.

Expect to pay about 200 dirham, $54, for 2 people; that would include mezzes, entree, dessert, and a couple of beverages.

Eats in DubaiMy favorite breakfast place is the breakfast buffet at the Blue Orange Restaurant in the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina.

It is by far the best breakfast buffet I’ve had anywhere.  It’s pricey at 120 dirham, $32, per person (kids 6-12 are half price, 5 & under are free), but it is so worth it.

This buffet has the standard eggs & omelette station you’d expect at any decent breakfast buffet, and so much more.  Along with breakfast foods they have a smoothie bar where you can order any smoothie you want; an Asian, Arabic, and Indian station that has Congee, Curries, Falafels, and more; a selection of cheeses; a bread section that offers a large variety of breads, muffins, and pastries; a cereal and yogurt bar; and my favorite the crepe station that has fabulous crepes you can fill or top with a variety of toppings.  They even have an ice cream section filled with delicious homemade ice cream in some very interesting flavors including fig, date, and baklava!

The restaurant has a play area complete with TV, play house, and other toys to keep the kids entertained so you can enjoy your meal.

Eats in Dubai

If you want to splurge the Westin puts on a fabulous Friday Brunch they call Bubbalicious Brunch.

This award winning brunch spans across the three restaurants on the hotel’s ground floor (Hunter’s Room & Grill, Spice Emporium, Blue Orange) and when the weather is pleasant to the out door seating area as well.

The food displays and stations are amazing.  The Blue Orange section caters mostly to families with children offering a kid’s buffet along with with seafood, pasta, and sushi stations.  The entertainment is mostly in this area where they have clowns, jugglers, acrobats, and even a petting zoo.

Hunter’s Room & Grill is a steak house where they set up various stations including a pub style bar where they generously pour drinks for those who purchased the brunch inclusive of bubbly.  The Spice Emporium serves up Asian delights including chefs showing off their skill on the teppanyaki grill.

This brunch buffet is truly an experience for everyone.  It is rather pricey starting at 450 dirham, $122, for the bubble free brunch to 680 dirham, $185, for the brunch with free flowing bubbly. Children under 6 are free and 6-12 are half price.

This Friday brunch seems to be a very popular event in Dubai, specially for ex-pats who come out in their designer duds to partake of this international feast.  During our 2 week stay at the Westin this summer we noticed the crowds of people flowing from restaurant to restaurant on Fridays.  Buffet stations are set up even in the hallways between the restaurants; you must pass thru them on your way to and from the pool or beach.

In case you’re wondering about alcoholic drinks in Dubai, it is served at some restaurants and lounges except during the month of Ramadan.  You can purchase over priced cocktails, liquor, beer, and wine and consume it in the restaurant or bar, but you can not consume alcoholic beverages on the streets, in the parks, or other public areas.  A popular alternative to alcoholic beverages are their “moctails” virgin versions of popular concoctions such as Pinacolodas, Margaritas, Bloody Marys, and such; in short over priced smoothies.

Eats in Dubai

If you’re wanting some Lebanese cuisine but don’t want to pay the prices at Al Halabi the Al Halab restaurant on Level 1 in the Mall of the Emirates is a less expensive alternative.

It’s located along the row of restaurants above the entrance to Ski Dubai.  You can dine within the restaurant itself or at one of the tables in front of it, you can’t miss it, you’ll see a large area filled with tables in front of the restaurants including Chili’s and CPK.

Eats in DubaiThis place serves great tasting Shawarma sandwhiches for very reasonable prices, 12 dirham each, that’s just a bit over $3.  It’s our go to place for a quick lunch when we’re at Ski Dubai or shopping at the mall.

Eats in Dubai

If you’re hungry for some Korean food then Koryo Korean Barbecue in the Level 1 Food Court of the Mall of the Emirates is a good choice.

The prices are reasonable and the food tastes good.
They cook to order really good Kim Chee pancakes.

 

n Eats in DubaiThis Koryo Combo Box for 35 dirham, $9.50, is a bargain.  You get a choice of 2 main entrees, 3 sides, rice & noodles, and a fountain drink.  I had the Barbecue Beef and Spicy Chicken it really was quite good, and very filling.

 

 

Eats in DubaiIf you’ve a yen for sushi while at the Mall of the Emirates Fujiyama located in the Level 1 Food Court has a pretty good selection of sushi along with boxed lunches and Donburis.  There’s also one in Dubai Mall’s huge food court.

I love their Tendon – tempura rice bowl.  Their prices a very reasonable, you can get a complete meal for around $10.  My grandson Dion, a sushi lover always goes their for their spicy tuna roll.

Eats in DubaiThe Mall of the Emirates has 2 food courts – ground level and Level 1.  Between the 2 I’m sure you’ll find something you want to eat.

Eats in Dubai

When we feel like Persian cuisine we grab a table at Hatam located within the vast food court at Dubai Mall.

Although it’s in the food court it isn’t necessarily fast food.  Table service is available.  It sure beats standing in line and searching for at table at this very busy food court.

The prices at Hatam are slightly more than it’s fast food counterpart in the food court itself, but the food and service are good.

Eats in Dubai

For very reasonably priced Lebanese food Karam Express is your best choice.  You can get a meal with grilled meats, hummus, starch, and pita for about $10.  They have food court locations in both the Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall.

 

Eats in DubaiHere’s a Shish Tawook Plate with rice, hummus, and pita from Karam Express in the Dubai Mall.

They also serve a yummy lentil soup.

Eats in Dubai

There are many fine Indian restaurants around town.  It’s very popular here due I guess the the huge number of immigrants from India.

When we feel like a quick lunch then Shamiana usually found in mall food courts is quite good.

My daughter loves their butter chicken.

Eats in DubaiWhen I’m hungry for Filipino food or even Filipino Fast Food I head over to Jollibee in the food court of Dubai Mall for some “Chicken Joy”.
Or for real Filipino cooking then the Filipino restaurant chains in Dubai’s Al Karama district is the place to go.

Max’s Manila is always a good go to restaurant for good Filipino specialties like Kare-Kare (beef braised in peanut sauce) and Daing na Bangus (marinated milkfish).  It’s not quite home cooking, but almost.

For a hearty Filipino breakfast or brunch then head over to Tapa King in the Al Ghurair Mall or in the Al Karama district.  This popular Filipino fast food franchise serves up excellent Tapsilog – Tapa (marinated meat), fried egg, and rice.  I was surprised to find Lamb Tapa on their menu in Dubai.

Eats in DubaiEvery so often I have a yen for Chinese food.  I love Chinese food, but am very particular about where I get it from.  When I’m in Dubai I never have time to explore the Chinese restaurants so when I “feel like some Chinese” I go to the familiar, Panda Express.

I’ve tried other fast food Chinese places in the malls and have never liked them.  At least at Panda I know what to expect and they usually meet my expectations.

I like the Panda locations in the Al Karama area and also the one on the JBR walk.

I think it’s great that dine-in food is served on real dishes with real utensils, not styrofoam containers and plastic forks.

Eats in DubaiAnother favorite of ours is the Cheesecake Factory, it’s my idea of fine comfort food.  They have 3 locations in Dubai; at the Dubai Mall, in the Mall of the Emirates, and on The Walk at the Dubai Marina.

All the popular ice cream franchises are in Dubai; Coldstone and Marble Slab Creameries, Carvel, and Baskin & Robbins to name a few.

Eats in DubaiBut we found this cool new place in Dubai Mall’s food court called Ice Cream Lab.  It’s a California based ice cream shop that creates “experiments” of made-to-order liquid nitrogen ice cream. They use fresh ingredients and “make” the ice cream in front of you.

It’s super cool!  You order your ice cream then watch the ice cream maker make your ice cream in this machine that looks like an industrial sized Kitchen Aid enshrouded in very cold fog.

My grandsons had Mango and Vanilla.  They loved watching the “experiment” and loved the ice cream too!
Eats in DubaiA word about dining at the food court in Dubai Mall.  It is ALWAYS busy and crowded!  We’ve popped in there at all hours and have never found it not busy.
With about 50 different shops you’ll be astounded at your dining choices. Most places have long lines and tables are hard to come by, specially if you have a large group.

I find dining here to be a workout, first you have to hike what seems like miles to get to the place you want to order from, stand in line, then hunt for a table.  By the time you sit down to eat your food is cold.

The best way to eat here in our experience is to first stroll thru the food court and decide where you want to eat.  In our case we never seem to agree on just one place, that’s okay, you just have to keep track of where everyone went off to.

Once you’ve decided what you want to eat and where you want to buy it from find a table for your group.  You will see tables that have empty trays and left over food, if no one is sitting there it’s probably available.  Just hail a bus person and have the table cleared, in Dubai you’re not expected to clean after yourself even at fast food places.  People will walk away from their table once their done eating.  Claim your table and have one person sit there while the others go buy food.  I usually end up sitting at the table and have my husband or daughter buy my food, it works out so much better.

Eats in Dubai

When I find myself in the Dubai Mall at dinner time we head to Wafi Gourmet.  I love this place!

They serve fine Lebanese cuisine and have outdoor tables in front of the Dubai Fountain.  It’s a great place to watch the fountain show and people watch.

They serve excellent Arabic meals and wonderful Arabic sweets.  I love their kebobs and shawarmas, and adore their desserts.  There’s even a sweet shop where you can buy pastries to take home.  They are a bit pricey, expect to pay $17+ for an entree.  But the food and location are well worth the price.

My grandsons love the Rainforest Cafe located above the Dubai Aquarium in Dubai Mall.  It’s a fun place to have a burger in a rain forest setting.

Eats in Dubai

If you just want to hang out by the Dubai Fountain but don’t want to pay for a meal at the restaurants with fountain views then grab a table at Tim Horton’s located on the mall’s lower ground level right by the exit to the fountain.

For the price of a cup of coffee you can sit there all day to people watch and see the fountain show that comes on every half hour or so.

This is our “base” whenever we’re shopping at the Dubai Mall.  My husband likes to sit at one of the tables while the rest of us shop til we drop.  Very convenient, we stop by every so often to drop of shopping bags and grab a drink or a quick snack, catching a fountain show while we’re resting is an added bonus.

Eats in DubaiWhen we’re wandering the Gold Souk area we always stop by at Ashwaq Cafeteria for a shawarma or falafel sandwich.  Seating is under a tent on the sidewalk, but the food is good and very cheap.

Sandwiches are 5 dirham, that’s like $1.30!  The fresh fruit juices cost a bit more, but are really delicious.

It’s not the classiest place in town, nor does it offer great views and ambiance, but the food and juices really hit the spot after a morning spent haggling with shopkeepers.

There are many, many more places to eat in Dubai; from tiny hole in the wall snack bars to five star gourmet dining you’ll find it here.  I hope you take some time to explore all the culinary treats Dubai has to offer, it really is an adventure.

Tips for Souvenir Shopping in Dubai – Gold, Oud, and more!

Tips for Souvenir Shopping in Dubai – Gold, Oud, and more!

Shopping in Dubai

Are you an “average” tourist?  Is your idea of the perfect souvenirs t-shirts, magnets, mugs, and canvas bags that name the places you visited?
Or worse yet a t-shirt that says ” …went to (place) and all I got was this t-shirts”!

There’s nothing wrong with bringing home all those touristy things, my husband does it all the time.  But I often find that amusing t-shirt or whatever looked funny when you’re buying it, unfortunately it’s not too cute when you get it home or present it to your friends or family.

Many times what you thought was super cool ends up forgotten and unused in the back of the closet.  I know my grandsons’ have outgrown many unworn souvenir t-shirts we’ve gotten for them on our trips.  And I’ve got 2 kitchen cabinets bursting with mugs from everywhere.

On our last visit to Dubai I vowed to curtail my shopping (and my husband’s) to something that we could really use.  It didn’t exactly workout as planned, but we did end up with some really unique or even serviceable souvenirs that we all love and know will use for a long time.

Shopping in Dubai

Gold prices have somewhat dropped making buying a trinket or two a bit more affordable.  So if you want to treat yourself to something sparkly head on over to the Gold Souk in Diera.

In my opinion this is one of the best Gold Souks in the world, rivaled only by the one in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.  At the souk you’ll find over 400 shops each with a staggering  assortment of gold jewelry from baby earrings to wedding jewelry complete with diadem and tunic.

They sell gold in 18K to 24K, in a variety of colors including white, yellow, rose, and even green.  Jewelry is available with our without precious or semi-precious stones.

You’ll find the prices at the souk among the cheapest anywhere in the world as there is no VAT or other taxes added to the cost.   Additionally gold jewelry in Dubai is sold on gold price plus labor or “making charges”.  Unlike any place else in the world “making charges” aren’t calculated as a percentage of gold prices but usually as a flat rate depending on how intricate the design.

You can be confident in the purity of the gold sold in Dubai as this is strictly regulated by the Dubai Central Laboratories Department.  They have implemented a voluntary quality control and certification program called ‘Bareeq’ that recognizes shops that meet their good practice criteria for selling jewelry.

Here are a few tips for shopping at the Gold Souk:

Shopping in Dubai

1.  Know your gold.  If you are planning on making a significant jewelry purchase in Dubai (or anywhere else for that matter) do your research before you go shopping.  Know the differences in Karat (purity of gold) and colors.
Different colors are achieved by mixing amounts of alloys such as copper, silver, or zinc to the pure gold.  Thus tinted gold will always be less than 24K which is the purest and yellowest form of gold.

2.  Check the price boards that are located around the souk.  Know how much gold is selling for that day.  Prices are per gram and will depend on the karat (purity).  To convert to your home currency be sure you install a currency converter on our smartphone like XE Currency App.

Shopping in Dubai

3.  Visit several stores to compare items, quality, designs, and prices, most stores carry similar designs.  The prevalent designs sold at this souk will be Arab and Indian styles as well as some European styles.  Some shops sell only 18K, while others only the heavier (thus pricier) 22K and 24K.  Still others only sell diamond jewelry. If you’re not interested in one or the other it’s best to move on to a shop that carries what you’re looking for.

4.  Snap a quick picture of something that catches your eye, ask permission first, they usually will allow it.  In most cases jewelers will have multiple locations in and around the Gold Souk so if you saw something in one shop but can’t recall which shop it was chances are if you show the picture to a salesman in any shop and they can go get it for you or tell you where to find it.

5.  Don’t let the price they tell you discourage you, that’s just the starting point!  When you find the item you want to buy haggle for the best price.  All the pieces are tagged with its weight and the salesperson will calculate the price in front of you as gold prices change almost daily, if you ask them to weigh the piece they will happily bring out the scale to weigh it for you.  (Remember the price is calculated by the daily gold price plus the making charge.)

Generally the heavier the item and the more intricate the design the more room there is to haggle. They will tell you that the price on lighter items such as tiny baby studs or simple rings are fixed, but you can still talk your way into a discount even if it’s only $5.  So don’t think you can’t haggle about the price of baby earrings, you can!  We got a small pair of 22K earrings for my baby granddaughter for less than $50, the original price was about $70.

6.  Try to buy multiple items (if you’re interested in more than one piece that is) from the same shop.  Shopkeepers give deeper discounts on a set of earrings, bracelet, and necklace or multiple items like 2 or more pairs of earrings, etc.

7.  Most shops will offer you refreshments; coffee, tea, soda, water, and biscuits.  Feel free to accept or decline, but don’t feel obligated to buy.  And don’t think that just because you accepted a bottled water or a cup of tea you must pay the asking price, you can still haggle!

8.  As you wander the Gold Souk and the streets around it you will be approached by vendors selling bottles and cans of cold water, juice, and soda for 1-2 dirham; if you’re thirsty grab one they’re a bargain at less than $1.

You will also be accosted, very annoying, by touts trying to get you to follow them to their shops in the alleys behind the souk to buy fake designer bags and watches.  Unless you are dying to waste your money on poorly made and terrible looking “Gucci” bags and “Rolex” watches say “no thank you”.  I have to admit after being swamped by several touts in a matter of minutes they got very annoying and I ended up just ignoring them and walking away.

In case, for whatever reason, you are tempted to look at their wares remember this:

1.  Unlike following the touts in Bangkok, you don’t have to be afraid you will get mugged or robbed in the back alleys.  Dubai is very safe, the penalty for crimes, no matter how petty, is very severe (incarceration in a desert prison then deportation, I’ve been told).  So you don’t have to worry for your safety, but you will more than likely be wasting your time and/or end up buying poor quality products.
2.  Buying and bringing home fake designer products is a crime.  If caught at the airport you can be fined $10,000+.  Is that fake Rolex you got for $40 really worth the risk?

Shopping in Dubai

If you want to bring home something unique but don’t want to break the bank by buying that one pound gold and diamond tiara you can have a nameplate made for you.  They whip these out in a matter of hours or at the latest overnight.  They will even deliver it to your hotel.

You can have your name written in either English or Arabic.  Each name plate is attached to an 18″ gold chain.

We purchased a nameplate in 22K for each of our grandchildren, and my grandsons Dion and Devon purchased one for their mom.  We shopped around for them, the prices ranged from $200 to $300+ at different shops.  We then sent in our super haggler aka my husband and walked out paying $150 for each necklace.

Shopping in Dubai

If you want something with bling that isn’t jewelry you can buy one of these bags or a pair of sandals from the shops outside the Gold Souk.
They are hand beaded in India and Pakistan. Very unique and absolutely gorgeous.  You’ll find them in many shops along the road that leads to the Souk.

The sandals start at around $30.  You must try them, the sizes are funky and each style fits differently.  They are super cute and pretty comfy.  However they are not the same quality as the blingy handmade sandals you can buy in Capri or Positano, but they are at least 75% cheaper and will last at thru the summer.

The bags are a bargain starting at about $30 for the evening clutch and $80 for the satchels.  They are bulky and heavy so make sure you can fit one in your luggage if you decide to buy one.

We loved the bags and sandals, actually we just love bling!  We ended up with 3 pairs of sandals (surprisingly we refrained from buying more) and a total of 12 bags.  Again here you must bargain, specially if you are buying multiple items from the same shop.  We ended up paying $25 per pair of sandals, $25 for each clutch, and $68 for each satchel.

Shopping in Dubai

If you’re shopping in and around the Gold Souk in Diera you might find yourself in need of sustenance and rest.  Shopping can be exhausting!  There aren’t many great restaurants near by but there are many snack bars.

There are burger, pizza, and other local fast food joints (you will not find a McDonald’s or such in this area).  The best one I’ve found is this outdoor “cafeteria” that serves shawarma and falafel sandwiches and fresh fruit juices.  It’s pretty good and a bargain at 5 dirham ($1.35) a sandwich.

While in the Diera shopping area around the Gold Souk you will find vendors along the streets selling souvenir t-shirts, mugs, magnets, caps, etc.  If you must have some of those this is a great place to buy them.  Again remember to haggle.  We got adult t-shirts for 10-15 dirham, that’s less than $5 a shirt!  You can also find great buys on suitcases (you will need one after a day in this area!), toys, household goods, hookahs, shoes, and more here.

Shopping in Dubai

If you can’t carry all your purchases, don’t worry!  You can hire a porter.  He’ll follow you around town with all your purchases until you’re ready to load it all up in your car or a taxi.  He’ll even give the kids a ride!

This guy we hired doubled as a nanny to our grandson Devon.  He took very good care of him!  He patiently lifted him on and off the pile of suitcases whenever Devon decided he needed to check out a shop.

There’s no set price for porters, he told my husband to just pay him what my husband felt was fair.  In this case since the poor guy hauled around all our suitcases, bags, souvenirs, and grandson all day in 116 degree heat my husband paid him 100 dirham, that’s about $27.

Shopping in Dubai
Abu Dhabi Confidential

Another popular item in Dubai is Oud.  It’s perfumes, colognes, wood, and incense made from Agarwood essential oil.  It is distilled from the dark resin heartwood that forms in Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees, evergreens native to southeast Asia.  It is reputed to be the rarest and most expensive wood in the world.  In the Middle East it is known as “black gold”.

Prices vary depending on purity, quality, brand, size, and bottles.  You can find small bottles of not very pure oud for as little as $5 in shops around the Gold Souk.  If you’re wanting designer brands such as Tom Ford, Gucci, Versace, and others expect to pay from $100 to more than $500 a bottle.

The oud scent is intense and pungent, I’m not a big fan, but I do love the bottles they come in.  You will find many perfume shops in the malls and will notice the scent as you tour around town.  The locals love the scent and seem to liberally douse themselves in it.  Needless to say I admired the bottles but did not feel compelled to purchase any; however my husband’s friend always comes home with a bottle or two whenever he visits Dubai.

Shopping in Dubai

Satisfy your sweet tooth with a bar of camel milk chocolate from Al Nassma.  You will find them sold in most candy shops around town or at their kiosk on the lower ground level of Dubai Mall.

They sell a variety of chocolate products from bars, to boxes of pralines, to hollow chocolate camels.

My husband picked up a couple of bars to try and grandson Dion got a box of pralines for his mom.

My husband and Dion think they taste just like regular chocolate.  The rest of us weren’t so sure. I think it left a strange after taste, but they tell me it’s just in my mind.

The kiosk in Dubai Mall is cool.  The boys enjoyed riding the camel in front of the kiosk while Dion and my husband shopped for their chocolates.

Since camel’s milk is not that easy to come by this chocolate doesn’t come cheaply.  The bars cost about $12 and a pound of their pralines is just over $100.

Shopping in Dubai

Camel milk chocolate a bit too exotic for you?
Then head over to Patchi down the mall (towards the Dubai Fountain) from Al Nassma’s kiosk.

This Lebanese based chocolate company sells totally yummy chocolates in their boutiques located in most of Dubai’s major malls.

They have your standard milk, dark, and white chocolates as well as chocolate covered nuts and cream filled chocolates.  My favorites are sesame honey and strawberry cheesecake!  You can buy bags of chocolate covered nuts, boxed assortments, or create your own assortment.  They also sell chocolates decorated with flowers and other trinkets packaged on pretty silver trays, in silver boxes, and other containers; great for gift giving or as party favors.

The nicely decorated shops are huge and the staff  friendly.  They have over 50 types of chocolates. The sales associates let us sample all the chocolates we wanted before we made up our minds on what to put in our boxes.  The boys loved it!

We ended up with 3 kilos of chocolates.  The cost to box your own assortment is $90 a kilo; you can buy as little or as much as you want. An 8 ounce bag of chocolate covered nuts cost $24.

Shopping in Dubai

If chocolates aren’t your thing then dates might hit the spot.  The best place to get dates is Bateel. They have locations in most of the major malls in town as well as at the airport.

They sell dates in every shape and form.  They have fresh and filled dates, date drink, vinegar, cookies, and biscuits.

I never leave Dubai without a box or two of their fresh and filled dates and a box of cookies.  Prices start at about $18 a pound for fresh grapes in a simple box.  Prices vary depending on packaging and filling.

Shopping in Dubai

How about some Turkish Delight, Baklava, or other Middle Eastern sweets?  You’ll find many sweets shops in the malls and around town.  One of my favorites is Arabesq Sweets on the lower ground level of the Dubai Mall.

They offer a large variety of sweets from around the Middle East.

Shopping in Dubai

If you’re craving something salty or savory check out the nuts, dried fruit, and mixes at a kiosk in one of the malls or in the souk.

They are sold pre-packaged or by the kilo.  I’m not sure how much it cost, we usually grab a bag and munch on it at we shop.

Shopping in Dubai

The most brilliant souvenir I purchased this trip is this waterproof smartphone pouch.  I got it at the gift shop in Atlantis the Palm just before we entered the water park.  I paid 120 dirham, $32, and used it the whole trip.

This handy dandy pouch fits my iphone 6plus comfortably along with money, credit card, and key card.  You can make and receive calls, take pictures, play games, go online, or whatever else you want to do with your phone while it’s safely in the pouch.  Yes, the touch screen works great!

More than likely when visiting Dubai, specially with kids, you will end up at the beach, at one or more waterpark, at Ski Dubai, and other amusement park.  This pouch keeps all your essentials literally around your neck and ready to use.  No need to worry about damaging your phone with salt water or snow, or loosing it on a roller coaster.  Best of all you can use it even at home.

I’m sure you can buy something similar at other shops around town, I just didn’t bother to look once I got mine.  But I did need a souvenir from Atlantis and this was much more practical and just a bit more costly than a t-shirt.

As you’d expect at most amusement parks souvenirs aren’t cheap.  We went to Atlantis, Ski Dubai, Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld, and the Dubai Aquarium.  I found their souvenirs very over-priced. Kid’s t-shirts started at 95 dirham, $5 for the toddler sizes.  Mugs started out at about $10 – 12 and magnets around $3.  Of course we ended up with various shirts, mugs, magnets, stuffed animals and toys, my husband insisted.

Shopping in Dubai
Snap Happy Ross

Hookahs make nice decor, my kids have them in their homes even though they never use them.  You’ll find them in many shapes and colors in shops around town and in the malls.
Carrefour in the Mall of the Emirates has a few pieces for reasonable prices.  The smoke shop across the hall from Carrefour is pricier but has a better assortment.

Shopping in Dubai

If you must buy “normal” souvenirs the best place to get them is in Diera by the Gold Souk.
But if you don’t have time to get there then hit up one of the Carrefours in town.  I like the one in the Mall of the Emirates, it’s huge.

They have a decent selection of t-shirts, mugs, magnets, statues of the Burj Khalifa and Burj al Arab, ashtrays, and other knick-knacks at very reasonable prices.

Look out for the kids’ Dubai t-shirts, you’ll usually find a rack or two for 5 dirham a piece. That’s less than $1.50!

Carrefour is one of my favorite shops in Dubai. It’s like a Super Walmart on steroids!  They sell just about everything you can think of.

They have a huge grocery department including fresh fruits and veggies, baked goods, meat, seafood, and more.  Check out their row of Pringles!  (I know stupid things amaze me.)  We ran to Carrefour almost everyday of our 2 week vacation in Dubai.  We got diapers, juices, baby food, beach toys, and more.  Yes my grandsons went home with some statues of the Burj as well as a few plush dancing camels from there.

A visit to Dubai isn’t complete without shopping.  Everywhere you go you’ll find something you just have to buy.  It’s hard to resist!

Great Eats In Amman Jordan

Great Eats In Amman Jordan

Eats In Amman

Amman, Jordan’s capital, is a bustling city with a mixture of ancient sites and modern buildings. Here you can wander thru the Neolithic and Bronze Age ruins of Jabal al’Qal’a (the Citadel), see some of the oldest statues in the world and gaze at the Dead Sea Scrolls in the newly opened and very modern Jordan Museum, and relax at a hookah lounge in the popular Shmeisani district all in one day.

Where ever you wander in the city good food is never far away.  Whether you’re hungry for burgers, pasta, or traditional Arabic food you’ll find it all in Amman.  The city and its environs are crowded with familiar fast food joints from the ever present McDonald’s and Burger Kings to Applebee’s and Chili’s, you’ll find it all there.

But when we’re in Amman familiar franchise restaurants is never at the top of our dining choices, we take advantage of the wonderful Arabic specialties that abound through out the city.  From street food to fine Lebanese restaurants you’ll find great food to satisfy your palate and fit your budget.  Here are some of my favorite Amman restaurants, I’m sure you’ll find something to suit your appetite and your wallet.

Eats In Amman

Long time favorite Hashem’s Restaurant counts the Jordanian Royal Family among its patrons. It’s located in an alley off Al-Amir Mohammed Street in Amman’s busy downtown.

You can’t miss it, the restaurant literally takes up the entire alley, just look for white plastic chairs and tables usually filled with locals and tourists lining both sides of the alley.

Hashem’s in known for their freshly made falafels.  You can see the the guy frying the spicy balls in front of the shop window, it’s actually quite amazing how fast he makes them.

I remember my first visit, I was a bit put off when our waiter was doling out fresh falafel from a tin bucket with his bare hands.  I’d briefly wondered and hoped that his hands were clean.  One bite was all it took for me to forget about his hands, perhaps serving them with bare hands added to the taste, maybe.  At any rate along with falafels you can get plates of hummus, foul, pickles, and of course pita.

Hashem’s is still one of my favorite lunch spots when I find myself in downtown Amman.  It gets no points for ambiance that’s for sure, specially when you have to sit on plastic chairs in the alley on a very hot summer day, but the food makes this place worth a visit.  They’re open quite late if you get a late night hankering for some falafel and hummus.  A meal here will set you back about 3 dinar per person, that’s just a bit over $4.

Eats In Amman

Abu Jbara is my newest favorite.  Like Hashem’s they specialize in falafel and hummus but in a more upscale setting.  They have several locations in Amman, I go to the one on Al-Madineh Al-Munawrah St.

Unlike Hashem’s in downtown Amman Abu Jbara is an indoor air conditioned restaurant in a newer section of the city.  The place is open 24 hours and seems to do a bustling trade all the time.  You’ll probably have to wait for a table, but they turn them over pretty fast so you won’t be waiting long.

I love the falafels and foul at Abu Jbara, not to mention the never ending bread service.  A waiter will bring fresh hot pita bread to your table until you say stop.  The bread is made on site and served directly from the oven, delicious!  It’s a prices are about double what Hashem’s charges, about 6 dinar a person, $8.50, but the air conditioning is worth the extra cost on a hot summer day.

Eats In Amman

Another favorite is Habibah Sweets.  Among their specialties is my husband’s favorite, Kunafa, a cheese filled pastry drenched in sweet syrup.

The original kiosk located in a side alley by the Arab Bank in downtown Amman is always busy in spite of the fact that they have no seating.
You grab your plate of fresh hot kunafa and eat it on the go.

They’ve come a long way since their humble beginning in 1951.  They have several branches around the city.  The newest one is on Al-Madineh Al-Munawrah St., a block away from Abu Jbara.  Very convenient for us, we grab lunch at Abu Jbara then walk on over to Habibah for dessert.

Eats In Amman

The new 2 story Habibah is a dessert lover’s dream.  The first floor houses the bakery where you will find just about every type of pastries and candy you can imagine.  From a wide variety of Arabic sweets. cookies, chocolates, ice cream, and beautifully decorated cakes and molded marzipan, you’ll find it in this bake shop.

If you prefer to sit down and enjoy your dessert with tea or coffee you can take the elevator up to the second floor tea room.  Here you can order just about everything they have in the bakery downstairs.

The menu has so many sweet offerings it’s hard to choose just one, so we ordered a large variety,
all of it delectable.  It is rather pricey, expect to pay more for Habibah’s desserts than lunch at Abu Jbara.  Whichever location you choose to visit, don’t leave Jordan without having a plate of Kunafa from Habibah!

Reem Al Bawadi Restaurant in the Khalda district of Amman is our favorite sit down restaurant. The place is huge with indoor and outdoor seating.  The food and service are excellent.  From the moment you’re seated you’ll be treated like royalty.  Last time we were there I counted at least 3 waiters serving our table.

They offer a large selection of mezzes and great grilled meats.  My favorite is their Shish Tauok, marinated chicken kebobs.  They also serve good Mensaf, meat cooked in a yogurt type sauce and served over rice and thin bread.  After dinner you can enjoy a hookah with tea or coffee.
This is a definite must whenever we’re in town.  It’s pricey, expect to pay about 30 dinar per person, $42+, but it’s so worth the price.

Eats In Amman     This photo of Reem albawadi is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Eats In Amman

When I find myself at Mecca Mall during lunch time I head over to Lebnani Snack.  This local franchise is Jordan’s version of McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Jamba Juice combined in one colorful restaurant.

Lebnani Snack serves burgers, sandwiches, pizza, juices, and pastries made from fresh Halal ingredients.  They have many locations in the city.  It’s a great place to grab a quick lunch or snack, and definitely indulge in one of their fresh fruit cocktails.  I love their Mango, Strawberry, Banana with milk cocktail, it goes great with a chicken shawarma sandwich!

Prices are reasonable, but expect to pay more for one of their pretty juice concoctions than you would for a sandwich.

Eats In Amman

I love to hang out at one of the outdoor bars in the Shmeisani area, they are great places to people watch.   There are many places to sit down and have a cup of coffee or a tall glass of freshly squeezed juices.
We usually pick one of the busier places and hang out for a couple of hours.

If you’re not a smoker you can ask for a table away from the crowds.  Smoking seems to be allowed at any table, but the waiters are very good and will be happy to set up a table for you where you want.  The last time we were there they were ready to set up a table on the sidewalk so that we didn’t have to navigate the crowded restaurant!

Eats In Amman

When in Amman don’t be afraid to try the little hole in the wall snack shops you’ll find on the streets.  They’re clean and serve tasty food at very reasonable prices.

This little snack bar in the Shmeisani area serves everything from burgers and fries to mixed grill platters.  We had a feast of mixed kebobs (lamb, ground beef, and chicken) with salads, hummus, bread, pickles, fries, and drinks for less than 25 dinar, $35.  But don’t let the small price tag fool you, the food was delicious!  The meats were tender and tasty, the bread fresh, and the fries hot!
I can’t end this post without mentioning shawarma sandwiches.  I don’t exactly go to a restaurant to eat this although I have to admit the chicken shawarma from the Kempinski Hotel’s room service is outstanding.  Most of the time I grab a bag of sandwiches from the street vendors.  When we stay at the Meridien Hotel there’s a man who sets up shop on the corner across from the hotel for about 1 dinar, that’s like $1.50.  I usually send our driver to pick up several sandwiches, they are to die for!
So if you see a street vendor selling shawarma sandwiches grab one or two you won’t be disappointed!

A Family Day Trip To Petra Jordan

A Family Day Trip To Petra Jordan

Petra

This summer we took my daughter and grandchildren to visit the ancient Nabataean city of Petra in Jordan.  It has changed quite a bit since my visit back in the spring of 2007.

I guess being named 2nd. in the New 7 Wonders list in July 2007 brought about the changes, most of them good, some I’m not sure are great.

The Bedouins are still there hawking carriage, camel, horse, and donkey rides as are the snack bars and gifts shops around the entrance to the park, they’re just more organized and now have free wi-fi for guests.

Petra

Gone are the enormous portraits of Jordan’s beloved kings, King Hussein and his son the current King Abdullah, that covered the wall of the small visitor center.

The visitor center is there, now located behind a gate and clustered with shops and new restroom facilities around a rotunda.   The ticket windows are right outside.  You can still hire guides inside the visitor center.

Petra

The biggest changes that I noticed are the new snack bar and souvenir shop inside the park itself located just across from the famous “Treasury”, the abundance of tables through out the park displaying handicrafts for sale, and the Bedouin kids hawking postcards everywhere.  They seem to have gotten much more aggressive in their sales pitch!

PetraRegardless of the changes Petra is still a wonderful place to visit and should be on everyone’s bucket list.  History buffs will love wondering thru the ancient building built into the cliff walls, hikers will enjoy walking thru the Siq (canyon leading to the site) and hiking up to the Monastery and other sites located higher up, and children will love exploring the caves and scrambling up stairs that have been carved on the cliff walls.   I’m astounded that visitors are allowed so much freedom at the site.

Petra

My daughter and grandchildren enjoyed our day in Petra in spite of the heat and the long walk.  Here are some of the things we saw.

For more in depth information about Petra  read my post “Must See Highlights of Petra”.

Petra

My husband and grandson’s Dion and Devon at the Siq entrance.

Petra

Devon checking out the ancient water channels along the Siq walls.
In ancient times this channel brought water from the spring in nearby Wadi Musa to the city center of Petra.

Petra

My daughter and her son Jett walking down the sandy path in the Siq.  Jett loved running around the Siq!

Petra

The boys scrambled up the stairs carved on the cliff walls of the Siq.

Petra

Dion and Devon getting that first glimpse of what lays at the end of the Siq.

Petra

 

Petra

Petra’s most famous structure, the “Treasury”.  The kids loved walking around the camels.  Jett spent most of the time running around the camels, he thought he was at a playground!

Petra

Tombs and other structures we saw as we walked thru the site.

Petra

The boys exploring the cave like structures in the site.


Here’s a video of our day in Petra from the park entrance and beyond.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TW7g8BAIyDs

We were exhausted after exploring the site on such a hot summer day, we ended up riding donkeys back to the Treasury area.

After a long hot day trekking thru the Siq and wandering the site we decided to hire carriages from the Treasury area to take us back to the entrance.  It was a crazy ride thru the Siq, the kids loved it!

Petra

Back at the entrance we grabbed a couple of tables at one of the restaurants and sat down for some lunch and much needed rest.

The restaurants serve drinks, snacks, and Arabic food including falafels, shawarma, and kebobs.  The food was ok, but very over priced.  They do however have free wi-fi, just ask the waiter for the password.

Employees in guard costumes were very friendly.  Many of them stopped by for a chat and to play with Jett.

During lunch we took turns exploring the souvenir shops around the restaurant.  We ended up with a couple of plush camels and Khol pencils.  We found the prices a bit higher than other shops in Jordan, but if you want something that says Petra the shops in this area have the best selections.

Our day it Petra was a lot of fun, it will definitely be remembered for years to come.  The boys, Dion and Devon, had a great time and learned a few things about the ancient city as well.  Petra is definitely a must do!

Emirates the Best Airlines EVER!!!

Emirates the Best Airlines EVER!!!

Emirates

This summer my family and I had the pleasure of flying on Emirates Airlines.  Before I begin to extol this airline’s virtues let me state that I am not affiliated with Emirates Airlines in any way nor are they paying me to write reviews; I am just a very happy passenger.

This was not the first time my husband and I have flown Emirates, but it was a first for my daughter, her year old son, and my 2 other grandsons ages 7 and 13.  All of us including the baby have flown internationally before, in fact my 7 year old grandson has been giving reviews on all the many flights he’s taken to Europe, none of them good.

I have flown Business and First Class on Emirates before, but this was my first time flying economy.  With so many of us traveling coach was really the only way to go, costs being what they are.  I was a bit reluctant flying coach, (Business and First Class passengers are treated like royalty, service is amazing!), but my husband assured me the service even in coach is exceptional.

Long haul international flights have always been trying, specially when you’re traveling with kids. They get hungry, board, restless, and cranky.  My daughter, traveling internationally with her son without her husband for the first time, was not looking forward to the 15+ hour flight from Houston to Dubai, but I kept telling her this time it would be better, we were flying with Emirates!  After the first flight she was more than convinced and had no problem going on the other 3 Emirate flights we flew this summer.

How is Emirate Airlines different?  It’s so much better than other US based airlines that fly overseas for so many reasons, it’s hard to know where to begin.  So I’ll start with the booking process, it was painless!  For more about my customer service experience when I booked these flights read my post The Best Phone Customer Service Ever.

Our  Emirates experience began at the gate where families with children were allowed to board the aircraft first.  Other international airlines offer passengers this courtesy and when you’re traveling with 3 children it is a Godsend.  Boarding was easy, we found our seats and the flight attendants actually HELPED us place our carry on bags in the overhead bins, unheard of on US carriers!

Emirates

The kids were happy to find not only blankets and pillows on their seats, they also found a small travel pouch equipped with a folding toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, and sleeping mask.  They also got a sealed set of headphones to use on their personal seat back entertainment system.

(Everyone got the little travel pouches.  Business and First Class travelers get a  more upscale kit with designer toiletries – Bulgari for men and Clarins for women – just a few of the extra perks considering the price you pay to travel in those cabins)

Before take-off the flight attendants came around with hot towels (they pass out cold towels on flights from Dubai, a refreshing treat when the outside temperature is 116 degrees!)

They also hand out toys to the children.  On the 15+ hour flights each child received a blanket with a monster buddy along with coloring books and colored pencils.  On shorter flights the kids got stuffed monster buddies and coloring books.  By the time we got home the boys had many toys, somehow Devon, the 7 year old, charmed the flight attendants into multiple toys and even a Fly Emirates backpack.  My daughter traveling with the baby also received a baby kit filled with a changing table cover, wipes, and other baby necessities.  Sometime before the end of the flight the boys also got some wings.  To be fair other International Airlines have given the boys toys as well, Lufthansa gave them stuffed planes and coloring books one year, and Air France gave them activity books and wings.

The toys and books thrilled the boys and kept them busy the whole flight.  That along with the kid friendly movies and games on the entertainment system made their trip fun.

Emirates

When meal time came around my daughter got an infant meal for the baby, pouches and bottles of baby food, milk, juice, and fruit.  Devon got his kid’s meal which had a box full of snacks, chicken nuggets, colorful plastic cutlery, and dessert.  For breakfast the kid’s meal had scrambled eggs and chicken sausages as the main course.  Infant and kid meals have to be ordered in advance, you can do this online or by phone.

Between meals the crew sets up  snack bars at the galleys in the middle and back of the plane.  They set out fruit, candy and granola bars, as well as beverages.  Passengers can help themselves.

On one flight Devon got hungry and ventured out to the galley.  He couldn’t find anything he wanted, the flight attendant asked him what he felt like eating to which he replied “lamb”.  The entree for the adult lunches earlier was a lamb dish.  The flight attendant checked a bin and pulled out a lamb entree which he placed on a tray with silverware and other goodies and walked Devon back to his seat to enjoy his impromptu meal!  Needless to say Devon was more than pleased.

One of his many complaints about United, which we flew one year to Italy, was that they starved him.  On that flight he had been asleep when the meals were passed out, when he awoke hungry we requested his meal from the flight attendant who told us the meals had been put away.  I remember literally begging him for anything to feed the crying child who was 4 years old at the time.  There was nothing to eat, no peanuts or pretzels, and nothing even for purchase!  We were told that meals would be served in an hour and we’d have to wait until then.  Luckily we still had some of the snacks I’d packed before we left, Devon had to snack on them until the flight attendant came around with the meals.

I have noticed that for what ever reason United does not set up a snack station on International flights, Delta and Hawaiian do.  Internationally based airlines, at least the ones I’ve flown, all set up snack bars between meals (Air France, Lufthansa, KLM, Philippine Airlines, Japan Airlines to name a few I’ve flown). But I guess we’re lucky that the US based airlines supply free meals at all! Actually all non-US based airlines supply free meals or snacks even on their short domestic flights; as far as I know the only US based airlines to supply a free meal on their domestic flights is Hawaiian Airlines.

Emirates

Another important difference between Emirates and all other airlines I’ve been on are clean and well stocked bathrooms throughout the entire flight.

There’s nothing more disgusting that walking into a filthy bathroom in the middle of a trans Pacific or Atlantic flight.  Many times towards the end of a 10 hour flight the bathrooms are not only gross, they have no toilet paper, hand towels or even soap.

During our Emirates flights I saw the flight attendants taking turns to make sure the bathrooms are clean and well stocked.  Throughout the flights they took turns donning gloves and aprons and policed the bathrooms.  I know this for sure because we always had bulk head seats that were directly in front of the bathrooms, I saw them cleaning.

The wood grain decor and the wall mirrors on the Emirate A380 planes we flew were a nice touch.
They made the usually tiny airplane bathrooms look and feel roomier.  The clean changing tables in all the bathrooms made changing the baby so much easier, we didn’t have to wait in line for the one bathroom equipped with the changing table.

The flight experience was wonderful.  The flight attendants were all very pleasant and helpful.  They answered the call light promptly and with a smile.  They had no problem bringing juice for the baby or heating up bottles for the passengers who had infants.  They also tried their best to accommodate families not seated together although that involved persuading other passengers to change seats, not always an easy task.

At the end of the flights the boys were reluctant to leave the plane when we arrived at our destination. Never before has this happened, they are usually rushing to get off the plane!

Emirates

Emirates service does not stop when you step off the plane.  For those of us who gate checked a stroller we were told to pick up the stroller at luggage claim.  There were courtesy strollers set up on the jet way for our use.  If you didn’t get one from the jet way there are stroller bins all along the walk to luggage claim. They are free to use until you get yours.  You just leave it at luggage claim before you exit thru customs.  Very convenient!  (If you’re a departing passenger there are strollers around the check-in counters to use until you get to the gate).

For those of us who had a long layover Emirates provided us with hotel rooms to await our connecting flight.  They provided transportation to and from the hotel and also a meal.  This service is called Dubai Connect and is offered to all passengers regardless of ticket class.  There are however conditions, such as your layover must be 8 hours or more, your connection must be the first available flight from Dubai, and it must be added to your booking after you have purchased your ticket and before your flight departs.  For more information on Dubai Connect click here.

The hotel they provide depends on the class of service you are in, since we flew coach this time we stayed at the Copthorne Airport Hotel.  It was not a 5 star luxury hotel, but really all we did there was eat their buffet dinner, which was ok, sleep for a few hours, and take quick showers.  It would not have been my first choice in Dubai hotels, but free is free, so I can’t complain.  It was very basic but it was clean, close by,  provided decent towels, and was stocked with decent toiletries, that’s all that mattered after a 15 hour flight.

Over all flying with Emirates makes air travel more pleasant, even in coach.  Emirates Airlines is VERY family friendly!

My grandson Devon has declared that from now on he only wants to fly Emirates.  He made this perfectly clear to the United gate agent when he had to check-in to his United flight from Houston to Georgia when our vacation was over.

We are so happy with Emirates that I just booked tickets on their New York – Milan flight this October.  My husband told us all that we will all be returning to Dubai in 2020 for the World Expo, and of course we will be flying on Emirates.  My daughter and the boys are all looking forward to it.
I’m almost certain on that trip the rest of the family will be going too!


The Best Phone Customer Service Ever! – Emirate Airlines

The Best Phone Customer Service Ever! – Emirate Airlines

This year we decided that we’d combine our family summer vacation with just a bit of business, so we’re heading to Amman, Jordan and Dubai, UAE.  We’ll be traveling with my youngest daughter, her 22 month old son, and two grandsons ages 7 and 13.  The kids are all seasoned travelers so the long plane rides from Honolulu have never been an issue.

When we travel to Dubai we always take Emirate Airlines, they have some of the newest planes in the industry, direct flights from many major US cities, and excellent in flight service.  This year would be no different, we knew we’d be traveling with Emirate Airlines out of Houston, it was finding the time to book tickets that was the issue.

The other day I finally got around to looking online for airline tickets, with a lot of kibbitzing from my husband.  He had plenty of second hand advice regarding flight schedules, lay overs, and so on, advice he heard from his buddy who left last week on a similar itinerary.  Needless to say everything he’d heard was wrong and only served to complicate the booking process.

Frustrated I gave up booking online at Emirates.com, none of the itineraries that popped up matched the schedule my husband had been told about.  Every itinerary had long lay overs and I couldn’t figure out how to supposedly get a free hotel room due to the long lay over.  It was time to call the airlines.

I was a bit worried when I decided to call their 800 number, calls to other airlines have often ended in even more frustration with endless hold times,  language barriers (I fail to understand why I must converse with heavily accented people in some far off call center when I’m calling a US based airline), rude agents, and generally poor customer service.

I dialed the 800 hundred number and of course got the recorded message, “Thank you for calling Emirates Airlines….press 1 for the rewards desk…2 for new bookings…”  I pressed 2 and was pleasantly surprised that it was answered immediately by a live person!  No holds, no canned music, no waiting! I was talking to a live agent! I knew there was a reason they’re always rated one of the top airlines in the world.

He introduced himself and asked how he could help me.  I told him my online issues.  He said he’d be happy to either walk me thru the online process or he’d make the booking for me.  He did inform me that internet fares were the lowest, phone booking would cost slightly more, however, he would match the internet fare for me.

We proceeded with the booking, we choose flights, he was concerned about the long layover because we had children, but promptly informed me that once the tickets were issued he’d see if we were eligible for the free hotel room.  Apparently Emirates offers courtesy hotel rooms for travelers with long layovers but the itinerary must meet certain criteria.  I’m not sure what all the rules are, but booking a flight when the long layover is the only itinerary available is one of them.

As I was giving him our information our call got cut off.  I went into a panic because I didn’t want to start the process again, but the agent immediately called me back and we were able to continue with the booking.  Once he got all the information he told me he would request bulkhead seats and a bassinet for the baby and kid meals for the all the children.  He informed me that it would take 24-48 hours to request the seats and that I needed to call them back to check on it.

He took my credit card information and informed me the booking was complete but the tickets would not be issued until their security department verified my payment, that could take up to 6 hours.  He was quite concerned about our time difference and knew it was quite late where I was calling from, he was in Dubai where it was noontime.  I told him I’d be up for another couple of hours at which point he told me that if he got verification within that time he would call me back and he would also know if we were going to get a hotel room.  If not then he would send everything via email.

He called me back an hour later, the etickets had been issued and we were eligible for the hotel room. Unfortunately we couldn’t confirm the room at that time because he needed every traveler’s passport number, I didn’t have that on hand.  I was told to call back when I had them and they’d get the room, by then perhaps we’d have word on the seat assignments as well.

I called the same 800 number the next morning and got a different agent, again no waiting, no hold time, just a live agent right away.  This guy was just as helpful.  He booked 3 rooms for me and told me transfers to and from the airport to hotel were included.  However there was still not word on the seat assignments.

I called 2 days later and got the agent who made the booking for me, surprisingly he remembered my name.  He was able to confirm bulkhead seats for us and added the birthday treat form my grandson.
Children traveling on their birthday get a surprise that includes a birthday cake and a picture with the flight crew.

We’ve flown with Emirates several times and have always had amazing in flight service; but we’ve usually flown business or first class where good service is expected.  This is the first time we will be flying coach, there’s just too many of us flying, any other class of service is cost prohibitive, at least for us.  I was a bit weary about flying coach, but after my phone experience I’m sure we will have an excellent trip.

Emirate Airlines

My daughter and grandsons are already excited about the flight in spite of the long hours we will be enroute.  Emirates promises to take great care of the kids, they will be giving each child a furry “monster” and other travel packs to keep them busy, they have free entertainment for them as well.
They advertise great services and amenities for their young fliers, they even provide baby strollers to use at their airport!  They seem to be truly family friendly!

Emirate Airlines

To be fair I had to opportunity to book flights with Delta’s phone agent a couple of months ago.  I had to book my 2 grandsons unaccompanied minor tickets from Atlanta to Honolulu.  The number to call is specific for unaccompanied minors so there really wasn’t a wait time, the agent answered right away.  He was very helpful and caring.  We got those tickets booked without fuss or bother;  but Delta is one of the few US companies that make the world’s top airlines list.  We try to fly Delta within the US and sometime to Europe, I have to admit in my opinion they are better than most US airlines.

I’m looking forward to our flights to Dubai and Amman on Emirates.  I’m sure it will meet my expectations.  I’ll tell you all about it this summer!