My solo journey to Dubai got off to a rousing start thanks to the terrible weather on the east coast. We were delayed on the runway in Columbus and then had to circle above Dulles before landing. The best part of that segment was meeting the guy sitting next to me on the plane. When the delay was announced he pulled the flight attendant over and was asking questions since he had a 2 hour layover and was worried about it. After we started to talk, we realized we would be on the same flight to Dubai, sitting one row apart and 2 seats away. He was a young guy that was headed off to Hydrabad to get married. It was great having someone to talk to.
Once we arrived at Dulles, the weather took a turn for the worse. We boarded the plane, but lightning kept the ground crew from loading it. Then, continuing the string of good luck, once the lightning subsided, the pilot informed us that the jetbridge was stuck to the plane and had apparently short circuited due to the storm. These circumstances left us with a 2 hour delay before starting the 13 hour flight. I didn’t mind this though, it gave me a chance to watch Miracle, which by the way, is a great story. It also gave me a chance to look at our flight map which looked like we were going to go straight over Iraq and Iran – but no, this couldn’t be right.
Anyway, after we finally took off, I passed out. All of the running around for the last few weeks to prepare myself for the trip (and really 2 years of the MBA program) crashed into me and that sleep was great. Once I woke up, I realized that we were in fact going to fly over Iraq, from top to bottom, Kirkook to Baghdad to Basra. It was a strange feeling to look at the map and literally fly directly over Baghdad and to look down and see where our troops fought so recently. In particular, I could actually see Al Qurnah out my window, which is a northern suburb of Basra where the Tigris and Euphrates meet.
When we landed, my new friend from India gave me a hug and I wished him best of luck and congratulations on the wedding. Hopefully we keep in touch. On to customs…
The customs line was long, but while I was waiting I noticed an American standing right in front of me in line. Wouldn’t you know, he was a fellow Redhawk, class of 2003, found in the Dubai desert. We rode the Metro into town after picking up a SIM card and some cash from an ATM – both of these would cause problems later in my day.
As I got off the Metro, I grabbed a cab from the Mall of the Emirates stop and he dropped me off at the hotel. The only problem was that I had large UAE bills for a cheap ride (cabs here are very cheap – I’m guessing it’s gas flows like water here). Note, cabs also do not take credit here, so I had to pay cash, $3. Although this was roughly correct with the conversion, he didn’t want dollars, but it was the best he could get, so he was not happy.
When I got up to the room, I noticed a few other issues:
1) my clothes were soaked due to the massive storm in DC, so I had to unpack and hang everything.
2) I couldn’t activate the SIM, the instructions didn’t say how to do it – I had to run back to the Mall to go to the phone company store and got that resolved.
It wasn’t until later that I realized the converters I ordered from Amazon didn’t work for UAE plugs despite their claims. So I planned to go back to the mall the next day to get it.
All in all, it was a crazy day, but a fun one. I explored the city as I tried to navigate to the mall by foot, marveled at how busy the mall was at 9:30pm on a Thursday (their work week is Sunday to Thursday), and had no interest in sleeping due to the time change. Good thing I had my Let’s Go Europe book to read about the second half of my journey.
Also, as a note for those wondering, I had to delay graduation because the school pays for the trip – at least the first part.