Dubai

The last thing I expected when writing a blog about Dubai was that I would have anything negative to say. I had been hearing how wonderful and luxurious it was, so it was one of the places I was most looking forward to.  Oh, was I wrong.

Before each city we’re given a tour book. It gives the details of where we’re staying, emergency numbers, places to see and local customs. We received the book a couple of days before we left for Dubai and we were told of a hotel change. We could see that this was a definite downgrade from the hotel we were previously staying at, but I  felt that with so much to do in Dubai and the fact that we would be there for eight nights with nine shows and one tech rehearsal over the course of six days, the hotel didn’t matter that much. That was until I saw the hotel. From the lobby I was pleasantly surprised.  It seemed quite nice. By no means luxurious, but nice. We’re there for a job, not a holiday (although some may think from this blog that it’s a holiday :)). Upon checking in I was told that they didn’t have a bed for Eliana, only a crib. Since when could a seven year old sleep in a crib? I informed the tour manager and he asked that we go to the room while they work on a solution. The halls were dingy and smelt of smoke. We opened the door to the room and it was absolutely disgusting. It wreaked of mold and smoke. It was beyond dirty. I didn’t want to touch anything. We came immediately back down to the lobby, where there were other cast members with similar and worse complaints.  I can’t even write what one cast member found in their room, but I’ll leave it to your imagination given the type of hotel I’m describing.  The cast members share rooms and these rooms were not large enough for them to share.  I was ready to find us another hotel. Of course, spending my money on another hotel would be insane, since we were meant to be staying somewhere appropriate to be able to work, but with kids, the last thing I wanted was them in this enviroment. I was asked to wait to see if they could fix this. I do understand that Dubai is expensive, but on my hotel search I found a lot of inexpensive, good hotels. The solution they came up with for the entire company was to give everyone individual rooms and they would be checked for cleanliness. We were fine with that. We certainly were not where I would have ever chosen for us to stay, even if I was really budget shopping, but at least now we all had beds and it was clean. This entire process took four hours and I needed to get the kids out for some enjoyment after that ordeal.  I took them to the Dubai Mall for dinner.

After dinner at the Rainforest Cafe in the Mall we went outside to the Dancing Fountain. WOW! It was really a spectacular sight to see.  We watched from the side.  It was very crowded, but we found a nice spot.  We saw the gondolas going round the fountain and wanted to take a ride. I went to ask how much it was, expecting it to be really expensive and not take it. It wasn’t expensive at all, so we took the  ride and watched the fountain show again from the water.  It was definitely another highlight of our time on this leg of the tour.

The following day we went to the Atlantis Waterpark.  It was lovely, but extremely expensive.  Given the fact that we have great water parks in the US and close to where we live, I wouldn’t say this was worth spending the money we did.  We had a fantastic time and it was beautiful, just overpriced. I should’ve checked the price before going.

For the evening we had booked a visit to spend time with penguins at Ski Dubai, located in the Emirates Mall. Christina, Gingy, from the cast was joining us.  It was Christina’s dream to see and touch penguins and when she had asked if we would like to join her we jumped on the chance.  I knew we would all love the experience, but to go with Christina, who was so emotional, made it even more special. I think the tears in her eyes when she touched them will be a lasting memory for me.  First, they have  you change into ski clothing.  It’s absolutely freezing in there.  Then you visit two penguins.  The second you’re allowed to touch and take photos with.  The trainers give a short talk about the penguins.  That was science accomplished for the day.

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The following day we went the the arena for tech. The arena was located at the Madinat Jumeirah.  The location was just stunning with a hotel, shops and restaurants.  We all wished we were staying there.  Our dressing room was behind the stage.  The girls thought this was fantastic.  I found it really hard for homeschooling.  Trying to concentrate when you’re hearing the show at full volume is next to impossible. Surprisingly, Olivia and Eliana were able to concentrate better than I was. I feel like we missed a week of school.

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Wednesday was opening night, but we had the daytime free.  We went to Jumeirah Beach Residence, joined by Louis, from the cast.  The beach is lined with hotels and stores.  It was nice to relax for a few hours on the beach. Well, I relaxed, the kids and the big kid, Louis, played in the water.

The next few days were grueling. Nine shows in five days, That’s a lot of hours in the theater and it was really tough to keep the kids focused and amused for that long, especially when the schooling seemed not to be working too well.  I colored Eliana’s hair and she colored mine, as you do. Those last few days seem like a blur now.

Our final evening, between shows, we went to dinner with a few members of the cast. It was the most beautiful night with a perfect sunset. A beautiful end to Dubai and the  Middle Eastern leg of our tour.

Our Middle East video will be posted shortly on, Welcome to the World with Olivia Fanders YouTube Channel. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5mOiJUZDdvrAxEtawGF76A

 

 

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Abu Dhabi

As much as we enjoyed Doha, we definitely felt it was enough time to move on.  Everyone we met was telling us how much more we would enjoy Abu Dhabi and Dubai and there was so much to do there, almost down playing Doha.  Doha is building at a rapid pace in the hopes, I think, of becoming the next Dubai, but they are yet to have the visitors. They’re way more religious and you need to be respectful of the way you dress, but we didn’t feel this to be restrictive at all.

We were not to leave without experiencing the Souq Waqif.  It was like an Epcot version of the Grand Bizarre without the congestion. Kind of a theme park like market and we thought it was just so beautiful. We bought some pearl bracelets for Olivia and Eliana and a bracelet to keep the evil eye away for me.

We took a flight to Dubai and then a bus to Abu Dhabi.  The reason for traveling this way was that our flight back to NY would be from Dubai. We arrived at 9pm on Sunday evening really hungry.  The kids hadn’t eaten since breakfast apart from a couple of muffins at the airport, so we asked the front desk where we could eat.  Once again we were confronted with the problem that we couldn’t eat in the restaurant cause it was closed to kids at 9pm.  The front desk staff explained that our only option was room service.  I was so frustrated.  Anyone who stays in hotels knows it’s not cheap to order room service and although I don’t mind having to order when we need it, the thought that after 9pm every night the kids are going to have to order from the room was ridiculous.  We were all tired and cranky and this was just not what I wanted to hear.  This is when the tour family happens to really step in and be a family.  I have grown to have a few individuals on the tour who I really enjoy being around, who are good and sincere with my girls and also seem to be quite in tune if I’m feeling a little off (which honestly I try not to let happen).  We came down to the lobby after putting our bags in the room and seeing that I was upset, one of the cast members asked why. I explained that we were hungry and were not allowed to eat in the hotel since it was after 9pm and we really didn’t need to be stuck in the hotel room after traveling.  He said they were going to the mall, to the Cheesecake Factory, so we should join them.  He saved my day.  There were about twenty of us that evening.  It was amazing how that just completely changed my mood.   I know it seems like such a small thing, but after the kids going through this in Doha and knowing that I would be arriving home after shows with hungry kids, at that moment seemed awful. The hotel staff had neglected to tell me that there were plenty of food options without having to order room service. The malls have restaurants open late and even in the plaza where our hotel was there were plenty of other dining options. It turned out just fine. Kids in the Middle East stay up extremely late. Unlike American kids where we’re used to having them down by 8:30-9pm.  You’ll see kids in malls at 11pm on school days. Even our evening shows in the Middle East didn’t start till 9:30pm.

Our hotel was on Yas Island where the theater, Ferrari World, Water Park and the amazing Mall, Yas Mall, were situated.   We woke up earlier than usual to make sure we got a full day of enjoyment on our day off. We made it to Ferrari world at the opening. They had a great deal, buy one, get two free, absolutely perfect for us. Ferrari World is known for having the fastest roller coaster in the world.  We didn’t take that ride, not only cause the girls were too small, but there’s no way I would’ve. I used to love roller coasters, but something about my body chemistry certainly changed after having kids.  It was so nice to have a theme park without the lines.  We were able to go on every ride we wanted, see the shows and still be out in four hours.  We got lunch at the mall and went back to the hotel to spend the afternoon in the pool.

Tuesday was our only other day off.  The girls loved the desert safari so much in Doha, we decided that since we would probably not be in a desert anytime soon, we would take the safari again. This safari had a lot of added bonuses.  A BBQ, belly dancers, sand sledding and henna tatoos.  I must say, it’s never as good to do the same thing twice, however the food and entertainment were certainly better on this safari. Our safari in Doha had better weather, I loved over looking Saudi Arabia (there was something quite movie like about it) and we were in the company of our tour friends.  Unfortunately, this time, Olivia got one of her headaches during the dune bashing. As anyone reading this blog knows, they don’t end well. She was throwing up, or half asleep from the time we got to the camp till we got back to the hotel.  I really wish there was something I could do to make this better, but I’m guessing she inherited these migraines from my mother and my brother is also suffering from them.

Our last morning before we started tech and there was one more place we wanted to visit.  The Sheikh Zayed Mosque.  This absolutely stunning mosque was built recently in 2008.  It’s a short trip and you can’t visit Abu Dhabi without adding this to the places you should see. I was dressed in what I would consider conservative clothing, but they still required I change into their robes.  It was so hot in the mid day heat.  It made me feel quite awful for the women who wear these clothes all day.  We didn’t stay long at all.  Just enough to view and take pictures. The girls were turning quite red from the heat too.

The rest of our time in Abu Dhabi was dedicated to the show.  This was our first arena and with that comes new challenges for the cast and crew (but mainly the crew).  Our dressing room was outside in a trailer.  This was so exciting for the girls. I really liked this set up. It made homeschooling very focused.  I had really started to notice a change in Eliana’s homeschooling. She’s seemed to let go of fighting me and wants to do the best she can. Her reading is coming along leaps and bounds and math has been focused on money, which she is very interested in, so we have introduced real world money into her daily math problems. I give her my wallet and she pays the bill, working out which notes she needs. She tells me what she needs in change and what she will leave as a tip  She’s got a really good handle on this. We have a lot of work to do on composition, but she’s enjoying reading more and she’s never had a problem spelling.

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The show was well received in Abu Dhabi with a good turn out. I felt it was more like a concert than a theatrical performance with the screens on either side of the stage. Audiences are so different in the Middle East. Where we’re used to everyone sitting still, people will be eating, coming in late and kids are wandering around.  Olivia is so focused as a performer, she doesn’t notice anything out front. She still asks me every time she comes off stage how her performance was.

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Eliana has taken to every aspect of being part of the theatrical life. She’s helped the sound engineers break down a speaker and microphone and watched the makeup artist transform   characters. She loves make up so much and comes up with her own creation by the end of most days. I can’t say I’m thrilled to see her plastered in make up, but she loves it, and this is the life we’re living right now.

There were three double show days in Abu Dhabi before we left for Dubai which was less than a two hour bus ride.