Dubai international airport is a global hub, a crossroads for air routes across the world – it is huge and glittering – enormous terminals full of shopping malls and each one a train ride from the other and people from just everywhere – it never closes.
Once I unintentionally spent 24 hours in and around Dubai International en route from Rome to Melbourne after an incredible fog closed the airport to air traffic for 3 hours. So along with many other aircraft our Emirates flight was diverted to another part of the United Arab Emirates to sit on the tarmac of an unknown airport for 2 hours – of course when we did finally land in Dubai there were thousands of passengers trying to get on to onward flights because of missed connections.
It was a nightmare but had some compensations – such as allowing me for a moment to experience the incredible modern culture of Dubai. It was impossible to get a flight on to Melbourne that day where I was due to attend a Board Meeting but because I was working, the company I was travelling with had booked me into Business Class. More fortunate than most, I was eventually plucked from the seething mass of humanity in the arrivals hall (no plan obviously in place to sort the population of refugees from stranded flights) and booked onto a flight the next day, given a food voucher and put in a limousine and driven to a hotel in the city centre.
What a room! The hotels of Dubai were obviously pretty full by the time I was sorted through customs and finally found myself on the top floor of a smallish but very plush hotel and allotted the Sheikh’s Suite. It was vast and over decorated, a full kitchen to one side of the entry hall, an enormous living room with enough chairs and sofas for a full retinue, four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a cloakroom and balcony overlooking the area towards the sea – I could just see the mega tall Burj Khalifa in the distance. Although huge, the apartment was a bit dark and felt claustrophobic to me, so I just used one bedroom and bathroom and shut the rest off. I think a palace would be an uncomfortable place to live!
It was afternoon by this time and I was extremely hungry so visited the restaurant with my voucher – they had finished lunch service and I could not find anything that appealed for the price I had – but I found the restaurant manager so kind – he told me not to worry and to choose what I wanted – I asked for a Meze Plate and he prepared it all fresh for me – absolutely divine! Later I tried to go for a walk but the heat defeated me, so I opted for the shopping mall and had to take the underpass to cross the six lane highway populated with luxury cars, this took me via a brand new railway station adorned with many photos of a member of the Royal family cutting the ribbon. The mall was full of luxury brand shops and signs forbidding the use of alcohol.
This time it was different, the airport was not closed for air traffic but sadly the magnificent Qantas A380 on which we had flown from Sydney developed a fuel line problem just as we had settled in to take off on the second leg of the journey to London. It was not immediately fixable, so some hundreds of passengers were disgorged into Dubai International at 2am and were somewhat confused as to where to go – finally having been up and down lifts and escalators and through security again we found ourselves in a vast milling throng all trying to rebook on flights to our original destinations. Luckily I managed to get on a flight with Emirates to London arriving some 5 hours after I had originally expected to disembark. Not unexpectedly my luggage did not get onto the same flight.
I have had some contact via phone and online and I believe that my luggage is in the country and will be reunited with me sometime today, but there have been a couple of false starts, so I’ll believe it when I see it. It contains all my art gear and clothes for the art retreat in France that I am leading next week, but having been caught before I have all the vital travel docs, computer chargers, pjs and a change of clothes in my backpack.
On a really positive note, I would rather be stuck in a crowd of people trying to sort out a mess like that with Australians and New Zealanders and Brits because they are so pragmatic, calm and can always see the funny side of life……..
Lovely to hop on the brilliant Heathrow Express train to Paddington and to see my little London family again – Alex, David and Penny and contrasting to my last visit in December – flowers and greenery everywhere!