This trip was conceived in July 2021, when my friend Earl McPhee, who had just started a travel company called Let Go Travel. His first venue was putting together a tour of Dubai and he pestered me to look at the brochure, which immediately grabbed my attention. I said to myself, “Gee, wouldn’t it be great to take my oldest daughter Kristina (who lives in Toronto) on this trip?” There were a couple of hurdles to overcome before asking her to join me. First of all, she is married and has three children; the youngest one Hercules needs a little more attention. And of course her husband Jim, who is a contractor, where she plays a big part in his business. First things first, I had to get Jim on board as he would have to look after Hercules, drop off to school and handle other household matters that Kristina would normally do, along with running his business. Did I mention he is a one-man show?
Kristina, unlike her two younger sisters, never really had a good holiday. She got married young and missed out on a lot of fun, so I decided to make up for lost time and eventually made the move. Fortunately, Jim, being a good guy and a good son to me, gave his blessings. Either he was glad to get rid of his wife for 10 days or I caught him at a good time. When Jim broke the news to her, she was ecstatic. That part was now in place and the planning started. I paid for the trip and was joined by several of my friends. The date was scheduled for January 14th to the 21st.
Traveling in these times, COVID plays a big part and when traveling to a far off place, like Dubai, one has to be prepared. If you get sick over there you must have insurance. Kristina got her insurance, but unfortunately, being a bit senior, the insurance refused me coverage. Can you imagine that! Anyhow I managed to find insurance, although it was a tad bit more expensive than what my daughter’s cost. Mine was about 10 times the cost of hers! Moving along, I now find out these tickets were non-refundable and non-transferable. This finding came about two weeks prior to Kristina’s entire family coming down with COVID-19. So now she can’t make it and I am out of pocket!
So now, here I am talking with the insurance company to see what can be saved and Mr. McPhee and his staff are trying very hard to get me compensated. I finally made it to the airport in Miami and checked in on Dubai’s flag carrier, Emirates. One of those huge planes, model 777, got ready to fly nonstop to Dubai for 16 hours. Yep that’s right, 16 long hours on a plane! The service by the flight attendants was amazing. They were very attentive and I sat in a row of four seats and I sat on one side, with a young lady sitting on the other side. We in fact were practicing social distancing with two seats between us! It was a long flight. I don’t sleep much on the plane, so I took a couple of naps. Good thing I was very close to the restroom; how close you may wonder? Well every time it flushed I jumped in my seat. That awful noise those toilets make!
Dubai is nine hours ahead of Nassau, so we landed around 7 p.m. Dubai’s time. With the time difference and the 16 hours in the plane you can say I was slightly disoriented. The airport was my first introduction to Dubai’s wealth. It was beautiful and it took a few minutes for me to take it all in; elegance would not do it justice. I learned more that Dubai does it bigger and better than everybody else. Like the Texas mantra, “Everything is bigger in Texas”, hell no, everything is bigger in Dubai! Our hotel was five-star, well-appointed rooms and a good buffet breakfast that I looked forward to every morning. The staff was very helpful and provided excellent service. Now to be honest, I am not a tour person as I rather explore by myself, but as I was traveling with my fellow Bahamians on a bus by ourselves, it was nice having conversations with them, which made the tour so much nicer. I didn’t know most of my fellow travelers, but during our tours a good kinship and friendship was established.
We visited the Expo, especially the Bahamian Pavilion, which gave a good overview as to who we are as a people. The crowning moment was when our Junkanoo boys started to lick the cowbells and beat those drums; pandemonium broke out. At one point the place was deserted, hardly anybody was in sight, but when the music started people flew in the street as the security tried to keep the people at bay. It was a losing effort as the folks jumped in, engrossed in the sounds of Junkanoo. All you could hear was 242, 242, 242…you had to be there to really enjoy that experience!
From what I can gather from the media, there was some discontentment on the amount of money that was spent on persons traveling as part of the Bahamas contingent. But as Bahamians, when we do something, we do it right and the proof is in the pudding. To make money and establish ourselves, we have to let the world know who we are. Let’s face it, we love our country but not everybody knows about us and this was a great opportunity to show our country to the world. I think the mission was accomplished!
The amazing architecture of every building was a work of art, absolutely stunning. It was an art show just looking at these masterpieces, opulence doesn’t do this architecture justice. In one word, it was simply amazing. I could run on about my visit but space is limited and it was wonderful to see our country showcased on the world stage. Our prime minister represented us well and made me feel proud to be Bahamian.
Thank you Earl McPhee and your team for a wonderful trip!
• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association and a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. He is also a former president of the Rotary Club of South East Nassau and is currently a member of the Rotary Club of West Nassau. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.