- Admirals Club Charles De Gaulle Airport, Paris
- British Airways Business Class Lounge Heathrow Airport
- British Airways Business Class London – Dubai
- Chaos at Dubai Airport
- Safi Airways Dubai – Kabul
- Kabul, Afghanistan
- Arghandeh, Afghanistan
- Northern Afghanistan
- Kabul Airport
Arriving in Dubai was a relief. While I loved being in Afghanistan, it’s a different kind of experience and I was ready to relax and start the vacation part of this trip.
We quickly picked up our bags (this time double checking the luggage tags), and I found a seat nearby where I could search for hotels. It’s foolish, I know, to book a hotel right when you arrive in town. However, I was under the impression we’d have internet access in Kabul, which turned out not to be the case. We narrowed it down to the Hyatt Regency (where we had stayed the year before) and the Four Points by Sheraton Sheikh Zayed Road. We mulled it over and decided to stick to the Hyatt Regency. The hotel was just 20 minutes from the airport, it was close to Nayef Market, and offered a shuttle to Dubai Mall. Besides, cabs were dirt cheap and we could easily get around town.
The rates at the Hyatt Regency are very reasonable. To my understanding, it was renovated not too long ago, and it shows – the property is in exceptional shape. Rates go as low as $109 per night. This is a perfect place to upgrade with points, as it requires just 6,000 points for up to 4 nights. I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep, but it totally slipped my mind to do this.
We took a cab and arrived at the hotel fairly quickly. The cab drivers in Dubai are among the most honest I’ve come across. They get you to your location fast and take the most efficient route (I’m looking at you, Istanbul!).
While our bags were unloaded, I headed into the lobby. There is a Platinum/Diamond check-in desk to the right of the entrance, where a guest being helped, so I walked to the front desk which didn’t have a line.
The agent was a friendly British fellow – until his inner car salesman reared its ugly head and turned check-in into a numbers game. I had booked two adjoining rooms, which he now claimed were no longer available. However, I could upgrade to a Regency King Suite that would comfortably accommodate all of us, at a lower rate. I emphasized there were 4 of us and he claimed we’d be fine with a rolling bed. Turned out this was half the truth – the room had two twin beds, hardly enough for four people. I ended up sleeping on the couch for two nights, but I wasn’t in the mood to fight it. Besides, I’d comfortably slept on a cot for the past week, so this was ultimately a non issue.
The room was the size of two adjoining rooms, ironically enough. Except, the second half featured a dining and living area. It was located right around the corner from the Club Lounge. A box of chocolates with a note was waiting for us in the living room, while a bowl of fresh fruits sat on the dining room table. It was refreshed daily, which was appreciated.
The room looks really dark in the photos, but it didn’t feel that way at all. If anyone knows how to adjust a camera’s light setting without turning on the flash, I’d greatly benefit from your advice. Just take some of these photos as evidence of my incompetence in this area.
The view wasn’t anything special, but I generally don’t go on vacation to stare out of the window.
The bathroom featured double doors that opened directly to a large tub. To the left was a door leading to the toilet and bidet. To the right was a walk-in shower. Across from the shower room was a small sink area with lots of towels and a single rose resting in a tiny glass vase.
The lounge had cut back slightly since our last visit, but breakfast was as plentiful as ever. There’s a counter full of the basics: Different kinds of cereal, bread, yogurt, smoked salmon, various spreads, a machine cranking out different kinds of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and iced versions of these drinks; There were 3 pitchers of fresh-squeezed juice (orange and two others I didn’t bother trying), 3 pitchers of milk (whole, skim, and soy), and lots of fruits. There is also a menu at each table from which you can order additional breakfast items. The selection varied slightly each day, but for the most part you had a choice of pancakes, waffles, quiche, or an omelette. I had both the omelette and the pancakes and they were delicious.
In the afternoons, you cold stop by for some coffee/tea and cookies, while appetizers were offered in the evening. The appetizers were not that great and consisted largely of desert items. I know, strange.
The atmosphere in the lounge was always relaxing and the staff were attentive in a non-intrusive way. They came by every morning to check on us and just chat about how our trip was going.
One evening, we spoke to a young woman from Indonesia who previously worked for Kempinski. She absolutely loved it there, but when her friend took a job at the Hyatt Regency Dubai, she followed suit. I asked how she liked living in Dubai, and she raved about it. After explaining how her housing, medical bills, transportation (including commuting costs and a ticket home every 6 months), and dining were all provided (the hotel encourages employees to eat their meals on site, even when they’re not working), she ended with “I don’t know what to spend my paycheck on!” Wish I had that problem! She did send money home every month, but she was surprised at how little she needed to spend on herself. My mom had seen her working that morning and asked if she had been working the entire day. She explained that they work in staggered shifts. I don’t remember the exact times/hours, but her schedule looked something like 8:00-1:00 PM, a 4 hour break, then a 4 hour evening shift at 5. She greatly enjoyed her job and said there was no better place to work than in Dubai.
We met another attendant named Fayroz, who was from India. He told us his grandmother, who was Afghan, had named him and he was curious what his name meant. My dad told him Fayroz referred to a precious stone and also meant “successful one.” He beamed, “Then I’m very proud of it.” He spoke with a British accent and told us he’d studied in Switzerland, gone on to work for a hotel in London, before settling in Dubai.
All of the staff seemed to be seasoned vets in the hospitality industry. In addition to being true professionals, they were very pleasant to be around. You won’t come across a more friendly and happy group of people…front desk staff excluded…