Dubai - City of Gold
Well, here I sit in a posh hotel in Dubai, City of Gold. And well you may ask what I'm doing here!!
I was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, awaiting the arrival of my bike from the shippers in London. However, because I had the bike keys with me, they couldn't unlock the topbox on the bike to rummage through it (as they had done to every other bag and the panniers, quite without my knowledge or authority, I might add!) and stickybeak in it (purportedly to check for "liquids and hazardous goods"), they refused to send the bike to Addis Ababa.
Impasse: they won't send the bike from London - I'm in Addis.
The only option, damned expensive as it is, was for me to go back to London, reclaim my bike (hopefully!) and find another shipper (as I'd rather not use the original lot again) to send it, not to Addis Ababa, but to Nairobi, Kenya, as I'm now WAAAAYYYYYY behind schedule and, most likely, will miss the 17 day safari to see the gorillas that I'm supposed to start on Sunday from Nairobi.
So I booked on Emirates again, Flt 724 via Dubai to London, departing at 7.35pm yesterday and due in London at 7am today, Tuesday. I stayed late at the Mimosa Hotel in my room, as they STILL hadn't cleaned the room at all since I arrived, and got a hotel supplied taxi to the airport, arriving about 3.15pm. No sign of any action at the Emirates check-in counters, so wandered over to a coffee shop, then doubled back to a "bank" to change some US$ into BIR, as I was out of local currency. Had a strange tasting cappucino and the most God-awful "cooked-to-a-crisp" chips you could ever want to eat!
Eventually wandered back over to near the Emirates counters and just hung out, waiting. Finally, a guy arrived leading two Americans, Gene and ChiChi, from Miami, Florida, so we chatted while waiting in the queue. At last the customer service officers appeared and we fronted up to the two counters - only to be told that the flight had been cancelled!! Yaaaaarrrrk!
Apparently, there had been a volcanic eruption yesterday in Eritrea, which is just to the north of Addis Ababa, and the volcanic ash cloud was causing concern as it was in the flight path to Dubai, so Emirates cancelled the flight, for safety reasons. Hmmm, so where do we sleep? Not to worry, Emirates came good after we'd hung around till 6.45pm, and we scooted off to the Hilton in the Hilton shuttle bus, together with a number of other passengers who were not local to Addis. Bedlam, of course, at the hotel reception desk, but they got it sorted and I ended up in room 333, a garden room - which smelled dreadfully musty in the bathroom!!
We'd not been given vouchers for dinner and breakfast, but we had them, anyway, and charged them to the rooms. After having very little sleep while in Addis due to the incessant barking of dogs in the yard of the house behind the hotel, all night every night, I crashed quite early, about 9.30pm, enjoying the nice hard bed. Typically with posh hotels, they didn't have free internet and I refuse to pay for it at places like that!
Woke early, about 5.45am, and was up just after 6 having a shower. Loads of nice hot water, thundering down on me, much better than the trickle in Addis! Until the bloody fire alarm in the bedroom went off! Sheeeeesh! Then the phone rang, so I'm sopping wet, scrambling around in a towel, trying to find out why the alarm is going off, and answered the phone, verified that I was having a shower, only to be told to "open the balcony door, then it will stop"!!!!! I ripped back the curtains and flung the door open, which leads straight onto the gardens from the balcony. The alarm shrieked a few more times, then stopped.
C'mon, guys! This is supposed to be a five star hotel, isn't it? Surely it was designed so that guests could have a shower without the alarm going off?????? Bloody hell!
Once I recovered my decency by donning some clothes, and my composure, I made a cuppa and sat out on the balcony, in the cool, early morning stillness. Then went down to reception and asked about breakfast, only to be told that Emirates hadn't authorised brekky, only dinner. Then they rang and said that we had to get the bus at 8.00am and the flight would leave at 10.00am. So back to the room and sat out on the balcony with another cuppa and the Kindle, reading an amazing story about HIV/AIDS. Most interesting!
Above and below: Views from my garden level balcony at the Addis Ababa Hilton Hotel
At 7.30am I hoisted my gear and went to reception to drop off my heavier bag to be checked, and handed in my room card, only to be told that I could go in and have breakfast while I waited. Here we go again! I said I'd been told we couldn't, so he went off and checked. Yep, we could! Which gave me all of 30 minutes to have the full buffet brekky. Then Gene and ChiChi arrived at my table to start brekky just as I was finishing at 7.50, and said the bus would leave at 8.20am.
Onto the bus, and more and more passengers arrived and climbed aboard. More and more luggage was crammed in. 8.20 came and went. Still more passengers and luggage were crammed in. Cases standing all along the aisle, passengers standing up in the aisle, my bag appeared - late - and was crammed in under the driver's seat. Still more luggage was stacked all over the front of the bus and the steps. One poor lass had to stand on the bottom step all the way to the airport. We finally left for the airport, at 8.43am. Which, of course, was right in the peak hour traffic.
I had discovered the previous night that I had been wrong in my assumptions about exactly where the centre of the city was. It was about 1.5km from the Mimosa, but in the opposite direction to that which I'd previously explored. And there were highrises everywhere, with many, many more under construction. And all the five-star hotels were here, too. So, yes, we were in the middle of the city, in the horrendous, crazy, chaotic traffic, with cars and people going wherever they wanted. What a shambles! And it was raining, too, with pedestrians slip-sliding as they scuttled across the roads or into little taxi-buses parked all along the roads.
Into the airport through the rain, and I slipped and fell to my knees on the wet tiles outside the door. Up, into the false dry of the security area, where I got dripped on from the roof, which was leaking. I raced over to the check-in desks, being passed on the way by an Iranian couple, passengers whom we'd been talking to since the flight was cancelled. They went to an Ethiopian Airlines desk, not an Emirates one, and got sorted, so I went after them, and was told that we were flying to Dubai on ET602, then on Emirates EK001 to London.
I really must say here that I am sick to death of the rudeness of the majority of those women who wear headscarves. They are sooooooo rude and push in everywhere, seeming to think it is their right! And the men are no better, either. The massed rush of scarves to get into the boarding lines was a sight to behold! But I got my own back, and cut off one who blatantly walked over and tried to push in front of me. My full backpack can cut quite a swathe when swung around quickly!! Hehehe! But the worst was yet to come. I almost gagged at the incredible, staggering amount of horrendous BO wafting through the whole cabin, a large proportion of which came from a large gaggle of giggling young scarves, sitting all around me. They also don't seem to know how to find their allocated seats, as they tend to sit just anywhere, causing the utmost confusion to everyone. Enough! I've said my piece - for now!
Until last week, I'd never been through the Dubai airport. It is huge! It is apparently the largest - physically - airport in the world, which I can believe. Heathrow is TINY compared to Dubai. When we arrived at 3.20pm, I set off on "the walk" - about 1.75kms of fast walking, judging by the time it took me to get where I had to go, the Customer Service Desk C, right at the other end of the airport. Here the next bombshell fell - the London flight was tomorrow morning at 7.45! Leaning on the counter for support, still puffing and panting from the fast walk, I expressed my disbelief, then suggested that perhaps they should upgrade me to Business, as compensation for all the stuffing around I'd been through!! Will have to wait and see what happens tomorrow morning about that, but I have a feeling I'll get upgraded, somehow. But my checked bag, containing my clothes and toilet bag, is, well, still checked, so I won't get it till I get to London. Oh well, perhaps I'll be the BO culprit tomorrow.
I was handed a hotel voucher pack and sent off walking again to the next Customer Service Area, where I was given a virtual visa for Dubai, and sent off to Immigration. My passport stamped by a nice young man in flowing clothes and headgear, it was through the security check yet again, then the long walk again to Exit 1, which is where I had to wait for the bus to the hotel. It was now 4.25pm, over an hour since we'd landed. Walking outside to get into the bus, the heat whacked me again. It was 35C. I'm going to get fit - or dead - with all this airport walking!
Above and below: Views from my hotel window. But not of the world's tallest building, unfortunately.
(Sorry about the reflections from the closed window.)
The Copthorne Hotel here is large, and very nice, classified as an Airport Hotel, although it is about 7 minutes by bus. The young guy at reception just couldn't help himself. He just HAD to ask why I had a helmet with me! But he was nice, handed over the room card for 4016, and gave me vouchers for a light snack and for dinner, and an extra voucher for brekky, telling me I'd have to be quick, as I must be at the airport at 5.45am and the brekky buffet doesn't open till 5.30am. But as I'm already checked in and have my Boarding Pass in Economy (haha), it won't matter if I'm a couple minutes late, surely.
No free internet here, again, so this will have to wait until tomorrow when I get to Heathrow about 12.30pm before I can upload it.
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