Sunday, February 15, 2009

Return to the Kingdom

On my way back to Riyadh for the second time, I flew Emirates from Toronto to Dubai and then Dubai to Riyadh. During the first leg of the trip I observed Pearson’s own baby boom in the waiting area prior to boarding, and sure enough on the plane I was seated next to a mother and her baby. Surprisingly, the mother was a baby expert, whose son was astoundingly good natured, crying only a couple of times: once in the night when he slid onto the floor out of his mother’s lap, and once on landing - but we won’t count that because a chorus of baby wailing rocked the plane coming down.

I stayed at the Millenium Airport hotel in Dubai during a 23hr layover, expecting to do some shopping and hopefully see some camels. Did it happen? That’s a firm “nay.” Yours truly wound up conked out in that hotel room the entire trip. Before the big sleep, I did manage to find out that there is a sophisticated arm of this hotel that is open for regular business where they have live crooning heartbreak music and restaurants where staff wear cowboy hats. I, of the common folk, was relegated to the layover arm of the hotel, where I got chewed out for ignoring a large sign on the toaster that forbade people to put croissants in it.

In an act of God I was miraculously upgraded to first class on my way from Dubai to Riyadh. No reason was given, but when I became overdramatic at my good fortune, the flight attendant threatened to downgrade me back to economy. I got to board separately from all the commoners, had my coat hung, got a welcome drink, and would tell you more except I fell asleep again, which I didn’t mean to do. I missed the fancy meal.

Customs is a nightmare in Riyadh. They had only two booths open for an entire 777, and a third, the “GCC” booth for gulf citizens. With luck, I was ushered into the shortest possible line because I was a woman (irony!). After passing through, I collected my bags and placed them on the conveyer belt to be x-rayed by an inspector who was staring into space while my bags were being scanned. Suddenly he sat up and asked me where I was from. I knew this was the end of me!! I nervously answered, “ I’m from Canada.” And then he leaned in, and barked, “No no no – where are you *from*?” This is the world-wide euphemism for “What is your race?” After I told him, he spun his chair around proudly and yelled something at a colleague standing a few booths down. And that was the extent of my questioning at customs. Waved off, I was free to go. All in all it was a very good trip!


Zein said...

Hahaha.. I love this blog.. and your sense of humor. Keep it up!
I think of Saudi experience in a different light now..xx

Nelia said...

LOL - you're making me cry! I love the part about your being threatened by the flight attendant :)