(This post was written almost a year ago….. but I’m publishing now.)
All packed up, now we headed to our evening’s treat, a 5-star hotel close to the airport. Jumeirah Creekside, and I’ll write about it separately. After last evening’s planned treat, we finally were on our way to the airport, leaving Dubai. I didn’t feel sad about it, really, I’d not lived there long enough to develop any strong strong ties, you know? We’d enjoyed our time there, and had experienced a lot of fun and interesting things. And it’s always a bit unsettling to leave the familiar and venture into the unknown. But… off we go! Here we are waiting in the Dubai airport…
It’s a fairly cool place, we were in one of the “slum concourses” (phrase courtesy of my imaginary friend Mark Peacock of Travel Commons) of the airport, meaning we weren’t on one of Dubai’s golden child airlines – Emirates or Etihad airlines. We were traveling on Gulf Air – a Bahraini airline. Here, take a quick look around at what we saw during our wait…
One difference between US airports and this one is that once you check in at the little kiosk in front of the gate, you get your boarding pass stub at that moment, not when you walk down the jetway. You’re not supposed to leave that little waiting area at the gate. If you do, you must return the stub to the person at the kiosk. Which leaves you with NOTHING showing you’re booked and confirmed on a flight…. Pretty scary stuff, in my book. So, my tip for the day about the Dubai airport is to visit the bathroom, get your bottle of water, snacks and paper BEFORE you check in at the gate area.
OK, so, they announce that our flight is boarding families, handicapped, and Gold level Falconflyer members. None of this is us, so we’re still waiting. But a group of 4 men in national dress go to the gate, present their boarding stubs, and the gate agent directs them to wait until it’s general boarding – it’s not their turn yet. Immediately, there is loud conversation about how the announcement did not say “only” those people, and that there is no one else in line, and how inefficient this is, someone needs to be accountable for this wasted time who is in charge here, and how they’re boarding anyhow. And they did! Brushed right past that poor gate agent and waltzed right down the jetway. I was flabbergasted. In the US, the gate agent would have likely summoned security, they would have been removed, and their situation would not have been good. Here? Apparently it’s OK. Two of them were seated across the aisle from us. Crazy.
Onboard, fairly nice aircraft, it’s only a 55-minute flight, so we’re thinking we’ll barely have time to breathe… sort of like a little Dothan, Alabama to Atlanta, Georgia shuttle. I looked outside, watching Dubai slide away in the distance, thinking “OK, we’re on the way to yet another new place……”
Having become accustomed to US carriers’ short-haul domestic flights where if it’s under an hour, you get nothing, no drink, no snack, nada, I discovered that Gulf Air does things a bit differently….. as SOON as we reached something approaching cruising altitude, flight attendants began handing out refreshing towels, reading materials, sandwiches, and juice or water. In coach! Take a look!
I was surprised, but pleased. Now, we’re almost to the Bahrain International Airport, so I started looking out to see what I could see…. A ship of some type waaaay off…
But then, land. Well, small islands. But that’s what Bahrain is, an archipegalo of 33 islands, if I remember correctly….
Then, the big island
Buildings, houses, mosques, shops, people…. This is our new home zipping past!
Finally, approaching a gate, and the Captain tells us we’re approaching the gate and he’ll tell everyone when it’s safe to remove seatbelts and…..
That’s all it took, hearing the words “remove seatbelts”. The gents that were so unhappy with the gate agent decided it was time to get up, retrieve their stored bags and start moving towards the front of the plane before we even stopped. TBG and I decided to wait till all the ridiculous-ness subsided before we tried to get off.
Next, to a little table area where we all filled out declaration forms, then to passport control/immigration where for 5BD ($15USD) (and they LOVE exact change!) you get a 2-week visitors’ visa and your passport stamped. As we were traveling on a Friday, the holy day, traffic was non-existant, hardly any lines to stand in, and the whole airport was quiet. (Please note that the visa price has now changed, and updated information can be obtained here.)
As we approached baggage claim area, our luggage was already off the carousel and lined up in between them. A man approached us with a uniform on and luggage cart and said “Baggage, madamesir?” I said “yes!” and pointed them out to him. He picked up the first huge one and put it on the cart, then started to pick up the second one and quickly put it right back down. He lifted his hands in a manner of “I ain’t touching that” and said “madamesir, you must take to customs this one” and he pointed to a white zip tie on the handle that hadn’t been there before. Apparently, that’s their way of noting that they want another or a closer look at something…. Medicines, gels, liquids, sharp objects….knives. Oh. Well then. That explains it. I brought two *very* nice knives with me, and that’s likely what they saw, just like at the Jumeirah Creekside.
Took the bag over to customs, waited for a man to come over, the baggage guy put the case on the beltway, ran it through the machine, and the customs man nodded and left. Guess they weren’t that interesting, huh?? But, we’re through immigration, passport control and customs….
And, for the very FIRST time in my life, there was a man at the end of the walkway out of the controlled area with our NAME on a SIGN. I felt really important….. and excited, and princess-ey. We were met by Mr. Shivam Thakkar, the CEO of a company named EatCorp – he had arranged our lease car, and our villa and was there to personally greet us and accompany us to our new home – what a nice feeling that was! TBG had met him on a house-hunting trip a bit earlier and Mr. Thakkar had pulled up TBG’s facebook page to show his photo to the driver so he’d know what we looked like and not miss us….. and folks, that’s why he’s the CEO!
We stopped at a shop in the concourse and bought new SIM cards for our phones and put time and data on them so we’d be able to communicate with each other, etc…. then, off to our new truck.
TBG looked it over, decided it had enough wheels, and our driver got in to take us to our villa.