We were so relieved to get on the plane out of Amman late that evening that we didn’t even mind that we would have to take two flights instead of one. When we learned that we would be flying through Abu Dhabi, we had a bit of a laugh. We had been trying to connect up with our friends Cathy and Paul Moreau for the last few weeks. They had been in Abu Dhabi, Turkey and Jordan and now we had been in the same countries too, but all at different times so that we hadn’t managed to see each other. As luck would have it, they passed through the Istanbul airport early on the morning that we were flying out of Istanbul in the evening. That’s as close as we came to crossing paths.
We had visited Cathy and Paul in Abu Dhabi in January 2006 and had a tough time getting out of the airport on our way home. The memories came flooding back from that visit, it was not a great way to finish off a terrific stay with our best friends. It seems that our flight from Abu Dhabi to Frankfurt was scheduled to stop in nearby Dubai to pick up passengers. When it was determined that there were only a few people boarding in Abu Dhabi, the airline decided not to send the plane for us, but instead, they would send us in taxis to Dubai just 160km along the coast.
While we were waiting for our flight the display board suddenly indicated our flight was cancelled. Here it was midnight and we had no transportation back into the city to the Moreaus. We were finally told that we would be sent in a taxi, but in the meantime, we had to sit under an airport ceiling that looked like the underside of a giant ceramic-tiled mushroom and breathe the smoke from hundreds of cigarettes that were being smoked indoors. I will never forget that feeling of not being able to breathe. It was like the hookah-smoking caterpillar from Alice In Wonderland was sitting high above us. It was such a relief to leave the airport and be whisked down a lamp-lit highway to Dubai, though I was terrified at the speed we travelled at. We made the 160 km journey in an hour.
I had heard that there was a new airport in Abu Dhabi, and I hoped we would pass through it, and not the ‘mushroom’ dome. You can imagine my surprise when we left the plane and entered the same transit lounge once more. The best news was that a smoking ban had been implemented and the air was clean and fresh. I was also delighted to find a large bank of computers with free internet access for travellers. It gave us a chance to email Anil’s brother Ajay and let him know that we would be on a different flight; that he didn’t have to pick us up in the wee small hours of the morning.
While checking our email, we also learned that Adia was having troubles of her own getting to India. After taking an early morning ferry from Victoria to Vancouver, she arrived at the airport only to learn that there was a mechanical problem with the plane and the flight would be delayed at least seven hours. It wasn’t the worst possible situation, but Japan Airlines was very attentive and gave her meal vouchers and kept her informed on the status of the flight. She wasn’t too worried about her arrival in India, because she was staying overnight in Tokyo in a hotel as part of her ticket price and this would just mean that she had several hours less time there.
At last, around three o’clock in the morning, we boarded the Air India flight for Delhi. We were given the last two seats in the last row of the aircraft. The flight was jammed with migrant workers taking advantage of the Eid holiday. They were loaded with gifts for their families; the attendants had to struggle to stow all the duty-free bags in the overhead bins. Within an hour of leaving, the bathrooms were trashed and the stewardesses suggested I wait till we landed to use a toilet in the airport. I was reminded why we never choose to fly on Air India.
We were glad it was a short flight to India and when we left the plane we had to pinch ourselves to believe that we were in the Delhi airport. The new terminal had opened since we were last here eighteen months earlier and the facilities were fresh and modern. What a great change. Ajay was waiting just outside the terminal and we greeted each other enthusiastically. We had become parents to a new daughter-in-law since we last met, and now we had arrived to participate in the wedding festivities for Ajay and Neeta’s daughter Dhriti. Let the fun begin!