I’ve been rather tardy with this blog of late – much of that is down to feeling better and having too much to do before I left. Tax return. Turns out (when reading the small print) that rather than being able to shove 30kg in the hold and carry on a suitcase with everything but the kitchen sink, I only have a one 7kg cabin bag option. Bugger. Let that be a lesson to anyone reading this. Always double check well in advance! My carefully selected summer wardrobe filled with both work and casual clothes (which I had been putting off packing until the last minute to reduce creasing) took three days to whittle down into something that would happily fit into big bird (the name I’d given to my shiny new yellow suitcase). Now, I’m not known for travelling light so this was a real problem. Several headaches later, and the night before I was due to leave, after I had cried in frustration and repacked for the umpteenth time, I decided that if I needed anything else I would just have to send for it!
It turned out that my case was not too heavy. Phew. The machine gobbled it up and for the first time in days I could relax. I can see why people are asked to only bring the essentials into the cabin. The overhead lockers are the size of a shoe box, although big enough to stuff in the small child that was kicking the back of my seat.
I flew Emirates and, although I wasn’t sitting near Jennifer Aniston, nor was I offered a Bellini from a silver tray whilst everyone boarded, I was given a hot towel about twenty minutes after we took off. Menus were handed out around at 11 and the food was better than your average economy fare: smoked salmon starter (which I left) followed by lamb cutlets and couscous and then a chocolate brownie with salted caramel sauce. There was also proper cutlery no less! I watched my way through several awful films and then gazed at the scenery below from the plane cam. It was thrilling to be able to see something other than a half-obscured view over the wing.
The legends of Daedalus and Icarus and Eilmer of Malmesbury, an 11th century monk who, as a young man, tried to fly from the tower of Malmesbury Abbey and spent the rest of his life a cripple after breaking both of his legs when he crash landed, not only show early contenders for the Darwin Awards but also prove that from the earliest times humans have craved the ability to soar like the birds. It wasn’t until 1903 that the Wright brothers piloted the first plane and the rest, as they say, is history.
What I hadn’t expected was that it gets dark around 5ish so for stretches there was nothing to see. Then the lights of Dubai began to twinkle in the inky blackness and there really was no turning back.
Dubai International Airport is pretty much like any other. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but being Dubai, I think I expected something outlandish. Or the occasional cheetah. I picked up my original visa, had my eyes scanned, collected Big Bird and it was about 10pm before I finally met my new colleague and midnight by the time we arrived at the compound. I knew it was beside a busy road but I hadn’t anticipated it being a stone’s throw from one of the busiest roads in RAK. This is apparently quiet now that the truck road has been built so there is no longer a constant stream of lorries juddering past day and night (there is now just one every other minute).
I had imagined that the houses in the compound would be around a small central paved courtyard but it couldn’t have been further from reality. The houses were set in a row on the right-hand side of the dirt drive, behind a large gate that at first glance looked like it was leading into a building site although it was really too dark to see anything other than from the sweep of the headlights.
That night I crawled into bed and had to throw back the covers to make sure that they’d not forgotten the mattress. I pulled the blanket over my head and waited for the roar of traffic to lull me off to sleep. I may have managed to pack the bare necessities, but tonight I sure as hell wasn’t going to rest at ease. All together now…