Zein Al-Maha Oweis (she/her)
As a visually impaired woman I love how my other senses are heightened when going to different places. It allows me to immerse myself into different environments around me. Which is why I was super excited when one of my closest friends sent me a message about The Duke’s Umbrella hosting a ‘Dine in the Dark’ experience in support of Guide Dogs Scotland. What made me smile was that this event was put in motion to raise funds for one of my favourite non-profit organisations. I was so excited that I shared the news with some of my favourite people who, to my surprise, jumped at the opportunity to join in on this immersive experience.
On the day of the dinner, my friends and I, along with my trusty guide dog Mitch, a red coloured Golden Retriever, took the subway down to the city centre where this cosy gastropub, known for its famous Sunday roast and signature cocktails, is situated. As soon as we entered the pub, my ears kicked into gear whilst my vision became dormant. As I am night blind, I cannot see in low light and dark places, so this is where my ears take charge as my primary sense. As soon as we entered the pub, the sound of laughter, conversation, and music captured my ears. At that moment Mitch chose to pull me forward. I was unsure why until I heard the pitter patter of paws; more guide dogs were present. You can imagine the excitement and tangled leads around us!
As soon as the gang all arrived we were led to our table. As I mentioned, I do not see very well so I was guided to my chair where I hooked Mitch to one of my chair’s legs and waited for the experience to begin. On arrival we were given a welcome drink and a blindfold with Guide Dog Scotland’s logo. Even though dining in the dark is a norm for me, I still wore my blindfold throughout the dinner. What I love about not being able to see at night is being able to immerse myself into the meals and drinks I am having. You have no idea how many marvellous tastes and sensations you get to discover and experience when dining in the dark. The best part here is that we were not told beforehand what the menu was, just that we had a choice between either a meat or vegetarian option. I chose the meat option.
At first, I was conscious about how the night would go as I was worried some of my friends would feel uncomfortable but, to my surprise, in a matter of seconds we were having a blast. Eating, drinking and laughing as if dining in the dark was a natural thing to do. This made my heart burst and at moments I was about to tear up – this was one of the first times where I had felt that my friends wanted to step into my world. With every course we had, we got the opportunity to taste some amazing dishes. From what I remember, I could distinguish tastes rich with salt, other bites were more savoury, and some had dashes of gravy and onions which stuck to my tongue. This is where I would usually reach for my glass of water and try not to hit anything in my way. I can confirm there were no casualties at this dinner. However, my favourite dish of the night, and one that stood out as the winner for most of the group, was the sticky toffee pudding. Despite not seeing the dessert, I knew immediately what I was taking a bite of. As soon as the spoon hits your mouth you are engulfed with a sense of soothing warmth and a rush of sugar as the toffee hits your tongue. Let’s not forget the brain freeze when you follow the pudding with a spoonful filled with vanilla ice cream.
Overall, dining in the dark is a wonderful experience which I would highly recommend to those who would like to take a turn at unlocking your other senses. The best way to describe it, using my other senses besides my sight, is like being on a whirlwind roller coaster ride; one where you discover the world around you in a whole different and exciting way. Dining in the dark shows you that you do not need sight to see the world or experience the marvels around you. A bonus of this past event being that you get to aid an important cause that will help support other people who are battling with sight loss, such as myself. There are many ‘Dine in the Dark’ experiences taking place around Scotland, so if you do decide to plunge into the world of darkness for just one night, please do so because it is an experience you will not forget. I know that this won’t be my last time dining in the dark and I cannot wait to see what other experiences are available in Scotland where we get to unlock those senses which we often take for granted.