I was invited on travel conference Tfest in Dubai dedicated to recharge travel. It was my first trip abroad after pandemic.

I flew on Emirates business class from Miami. United Arab Emirates (UAE) requires negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. Since I was also flying from Tampa to Miami in the morning and that was adding one more day, that was a bit tricky since I needed it basically in 48 hours. CVS and few other testing companies takes a bit more than 48 hours. So I had to go to local pharmacy which was price $199 but they gave me results in 30 mins. Test was negative and I was in my way! I did have to present it at check in counter in Miami.

Service in business class was as usual, excellent. It was a new service from Miami to Dubai so flight was not fully booked. I had a good night sleep. I booked Ahlan VIP service, so they met me a bit further from airplane exit and got me through airport quickly. Visa is not required for US citizens. I had again to show them proof of my vaccination and negative test, and very quickly (VIP separate lane), the Ahlan rep passed me to a transfer rep who got me to my driver and very soon we were on the way to hotel, Atlantis Palm. It was 8pm and it took about 40 mins to get to Atlantis. I was booked at Imperial Club room which had separate check in and access to the lounge.

Atlantis is very large and it is full destination resort. It has excellent restaurants from signature chefs to casual food. For activities, it has larges in the world aquarium, aquaventure water park, dolphin and sea lion experience, beaches, pool, helicopter tours and more.  It is definitely a great family destination with lots of things to do.

You are required to wear mask everywhere except when you are actively eating in the restaurant. If you need to get up at buffet restaurant to replenish your plate, you need to take a mask. On the beach and at the pool it is not enforced, however staff wears masks all the time.

Next morning, I went to Kaleidoscope buffet restaurant and was impressed with variety and presentation of food. There was a lot’s of staff at each station and they did not let guests touch the food. You point and staff fills your plate. If you need to get up from the table replenish your food, you need to wear a mask. If you forgot to take it with you, they provide it.

After morning I took some time to explore this large resort, since it takes some to get acquainted with it. I made my way to the beach and dipped my toes into Persian Gulf, the water was very warm.

At 3pm, I went down to the lobby to meet tour guides for Platinum Heritage tour to the desert. It was a small group, 8 people. It took about 1 hour to get there, the guides were giving us information on the way. Their camp is located in desert conservation area and, we were told, the only one desert company in Dubai which does not do dunes bashing. Dune bashing damages sand and wildlife living in it. Platinum Heritage Conservation guides also focus on educating guests with sights of natural fauna and flora in the desert.

Our small group consisted of myself, a couple from UK, a mother and daughter from Switzerland and a father and 2 teenagers from France. It was a pleasant company.

On arrival, we were given each head scarf, a bag with metal water bottle. We switched from the minivan to vintage land rovers. We took about an hour nature safari through conservation reserve where we learned about trees and plants and saw Oryx. There were a tribe of Oryxes with their leader and one lonely male Oryx on another side (he lost to male leader). We had some stops for photo taking.

Next stop was falcon performance. It was done on special venue with station with drinks. We saw falcons and learned about their personality and abilities. Falconry, used for hunting sport, it is a significant part of Middle Eastern culture. Falcons must have their own passports in UAE to combat illegal smuggling. When they fly on the plane, they need  passport  to fly. They fly first or business class, but it depends on airline. Most falcon owners, though fly their own private planes.

After falcon experience, sun started coming down and we went to the main camp where we were saw how food is prepared. There was a lady making Arabian bread (the process was similar to French crepes), lamb was cooked in the earth oven for 6 hours (usually it takes 12 hours), it was delicious. There was a lady applying henna. We were treated to performance with music. I took a camel ride.

Dinner was delicious. I especially liked lamb.

Some people stayed overnight in the camp (they have accommodations) and were planning to take a balloon flight in the morning.

I highly recommend Desert Platinum Heritage Safari.

Next day, I had my guide arriving at 9am and we went for exploration of Dubai. I learned about history of the country. We had a pleasant walk in Dubai Marina, with a view of skyscrapers and marina.

Afterwards we went to Traditional Dubai’s heritage district located on the banks of the Dubai Creek. Once the entryway to the Gulf’s most successful pearl diving port, the Creek’s legendary presence is still felt today as fishermen boats crisscrossed the calm waters in their traditional dhows. By its banks is a testament to Old Arabia – the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood. Buildings have been painstakingly restored to their original glory, complete with iconic wind towers that cast a contrasting silhouette to the city’s modern skyline.

In spice souk, it was a nice respite from the heat with air conditioning and owner supplied cold drinks. I bought teas and saffron. We continued to gold souk and shopped for jewelry.

After that, we went to a mall adjacent to Burj Khalifa, I had to be on time to my booked entrance. Burj Khalifa is a must to visit. It is the tallest building in the world and a global icon. I had a ticket to the highest observation deck, 148th floor. The lounge there afforded an amazing view of the whole city.

Back to hotel, I had to check in for my conference which has a mix or activities on the beach in the morning, meetings in the afternoon

and parties in the evening. Again, I had to show my pcr test and vaccination certificate.

I was ready for 4 days of networking after almost 2 years of not traveling during pandemic. Everyone was excited.

In the evening, I ate in Asian restaurant in Atlantis Hakassan, with contemporary Cantonese cuisine.

Next 4 days were activities at the conference. In the morning, I attended yoga, chakra, sound therapy. There also were sessions and presentations from suppliers. I enjoyed tea workshop which was presented by a lovely lady who was empowered to quit her job in the store and study tea and open her own business.

I will not bore you with conference details, breakfasts and lunches were buffets at International restaurant Saffron, which had a variety of different country cuisines and beautiful deserts. Their breads were creative and delicious. I could have just eaten breads alone! The buffet stations represented British, Italian, Korean, Indian, Chinese, Japanese (sushi). It was impossible to try everything. Usually I avoid buffets but this was excellent.

I had been tested at the conference for covid for my return flight and got results within 12 hours. So I was good to fly home.

I also had a dinner at Nobu signature restaurant for Asian food. I had sampling menu. It was very good.

Last day after conference, I visited World Expo 2020. It has been postponed from last year due to pandemic. It was a first expo to be held in the Middle East, and it was first time Israel was invited to Dubai.

It is a huge site, a home to about 200 pavilions, was created in the desert.

In 4 hours, I was only able to visit few country pavilions – Ukraine, Bahrain, Israel, USA, UK. Some were air conditioned. I had a booking for a food experiences but unfortunately it has been cancelled. It was a bit hot to walk, but in a few weeks, the weather will cool down and it will be more pleasant experience. The best time to visit Dubai is from November until April.

Back in hotel, I rested, then had dinner in Seafire – steakhouse restaurant.

At midnight, I had a car to transfer me to airport. Again Ahlan service was a breeze to take me through airport and I was on the way home, with 3am flight. I had to show my negative test.

On arrival in Miami, no one asked my negative test. I used trusted traveler kiosks, and for last year of pandemic, they changed it for the better. I just had to take a photo of myself in kiosk and no fingerprints. It was very fast.

I am happy to be home but also very invigorated with my travel experience and looking forward to start traveling now.

Covid safety precaution. UAE has high percent of vaccinated population. They were in strict lockdown in Spring of 2020, and then gradually reopened in summer 2020.
Masks are required in all public places and people comply. While it was hot and not comfortable in some cases, I understand the need for it. I felt safe.

Special thanks to Happy Travels local company who assisted me experiencing Dubai and my excellent guide Natalia.

Copyright  2021, Sophia’s Travel, EMCO Travel LLC