Good morning, sports fans! It’s about 7:30 AM Dubai time as I share this entry with you. So I’ll try to be a bit brief – HAH! Do I even know the meaning of that word? – as we finish packing, grab some breakfast and then embark Seabourn Encore in just a few hours.
Before we do, however, I thought I’d tell you about the remainder of our visit to Dubai.
On Saturday evening, we had the pleasure of dining at Al Nafoorah, an excellent Lebanese restaurant, in the imposing Emirates Towers, another hotel located about 10 minutes from our temporary home, Raffles Dubai. It has been highly rated for both its food and service, so I thought we’d give it a go. And, besides, when in Rome, right?
The lobby at Emirates Tower
Fabulous floral arrangement in the Emirates Tower Lobby
The Dining Room at Al Naforrah
Because it was a beautiful evening – only about 85 degrees, but very dry – we opted to dine al fresco on the restaurant’s terrace. Our waiter was wonderful and made sensible and delicious recommendations, as we’re somewhat unfamiliar with traditional Lebanese cuisine. He suggested that we try a sampling of hot and cold mezze and then see how it goes. We accompanied the food with a delicious Lebanese Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tasty hummus – not too much garlic for AAC, CPA
The chef’s salad, with an amazing pomegranate dressing
Sensational sauteéd chicken livers with pomegranate sauce
We had a marvelous meal, but never got beyond the mezze – the portions were just too large. One of them, the sauteéd chicken livers in a pomegranate sauce, is a must if you go. We also enjoyed the labneh (cucumber/yogurt/olive oil), and the grilled halloumi. Again, the service was so good, and we really appreciated that the waiter realized – after finishing off the mezze – we had no room for more food (and told us so). However, he presented us with a complimentary dessert of incredibly fresh melons and pineapple, accompanied by a delicious Ashtha bin asail (fresh cream with almonds, honey and pistachios) – the perfect ending to our meal.
Al Nafoorah’s light dessert – perfect finish
DINING TIP: Al Nafoorah
In Dubai, the weekend is Friday and Saturday. Yesterday being Sunday, it was the first day of the work-week. We found that out as we Uber’ed over to the Jumeirah Mosque for a morning tour. For the first time, we had traffic issues, but that was OK.
The Jumeirah Mosque offers an English-speaking tour at 10:00 AM every day, except Friday, for a very nominal fee. When you arrive at the Visitor’s Center to check in, there’s also a complimentary buffet. The tour attracts a large crowd, which I’d estimate at close to 200 people yesterday morning.
Our tour guide – originally from England – was Latifah, also know as Terry. She was very engaging and approachable, and walked us through not only the 5 pillars of Islam but, also, explained how the Mosque (any mosque, actually) is used for the formalities that are a part of the experience, including the ritual washing before entering and the removal of shoes and, even, how one prays when inside. This particular mosque, btw, dates back to the mid-1970s, so it’s rather new, as mosques go.
In a way, the experience felt like a bit of propaganda, but in a smart and strategic way. Especially interesting is that, when Latifah had finished her remarks, she opened it up to questions and she said that nothing was off limits. The assembled crowed, however, was a bit tame, so the questions were mostly benign. All-in-all, it was 75 minutes well-spent with several takeaways for thought.
AAC, CPA inside the Mosque
Our tour guide, Latifah
AAC, CPA back in his shoes following our tour of the Mosque
SIGHTSEEING TIP: Jumeirah Mosque
Once we returned the hotel, we decided to visit the adjacent Wafi Mall, which was accessible through an interior entrance. While our visit the previous day to Dubai Mall was nothing short of overwhelming and created all kinds of sensory overload, the much smaller Wafi Mall was much less intimidating – and almost empty of customers!
But it was fun to walk through and see what was on display. Some of the big names were there, and some of the design elements were photo-worthy.
Exterior entrance to Wafi Mall Souq
Stained glass ceiling, consistent with Egyptian design
We happened upon a wonderful venue – Wafi Gourmet – where one could shop or sit at one of several counters and enjoy a meal or a coffee or a sweet. It combined both modern and traditional kinds of merchandise.
Fabulous selection of fresh spices at Wafi Gourmet
FOOD TIP: Wafi Gourmet
Having concluded our expeditions for the day, we hung around the suite and relaxed for a few hours.
Another perfect Dubai sunset, as seen from our terrace
We elected to stay in the hotel on our 3rd and final night. We started off with cocktails at the Raffles Salon, located in the lobby.
Raffles Dubai Salon
AAC, CPA anticipates his bespoke cocktail, the Gin and IT
While we awaited our cocktails, we had a chance, once again, to appreciate the lobby decor.
The Raffles Dubai lobby – imposing but very welcoming, too
I’d like to be able to report to you that we enjoyed our cocktails but, alas, they were the one thing that let us down at this otherwise superb hotel. My Gordon’s martini was sorely lacking in gin, and I wasn’t exactly sure what the barman did to it; AAC, CPA’s Gin and IT, a concoction of gin, Martini Rosso and Angostura (as close to a Negroni as we were likely to get) was marginally better, but disappointing. The olives, however, were a smashing success. Dubai does olives really well.
As we left the Salon, we noticed the tea service (below), which is quite elegant. Note, if you can, the 3 miniature sand-timers in the lower part of the picture – to brew your tea for 3 or 4 or 5 minutes. Cool beans.
We then headed up to Raffles Gardens for dinner. Once again, we elected to dine outdoors as the weather was perfect for it.
AAC, CPA inside our tent and anticipating more food
As the night before, we had a great waiter who helped us navigate the menu. This time we elected to share a mezze platter and a mixed grill, accompanied by a lovely bottle of rosé, perfect for a warm night.
A little underexposed, but you get the idea.
Another view of the hotel from our tent in the gardens
After enjoying our food and wine, we returned to the suite for some final packing and preparation for today’s transfer to the ship.
As I contemplate our visit to Dubai, I’m so glad we had the opportunity to be here, even for only 2 full days. We had been told, from friends who had already been, to lower our expectations, that Dubai was some kind of Las Vegas on steroids. (There is, in fact, some truth to that.)
But we arrived with open minds and were not disappointed. It’s pretty amazing to be in a city which, until about 20 years ago, was almost nonexistent. The amount of building and infrastructure that has occurred here over that period of time is mind-boggling. When I consider the two “touristy” things we did here – visits to the Jumeirah Mosque and the Dubai Mall – it perfectly describes Dubai as a city of contrasts: the traditional versus the modern; the sacred versus the profane. Dubai attempts to have it both ways and, in many ways, succeeds.
Okay, kids, it’s time to get organized and on our way. The next time you hear from us, we’ll be aboard Seabourn Encore!