An Emirate mission
I'll shorten the story and let you know at the start that this may very well be a totally different process each time I do it. Having shared the story with a couple of people over here midnight has been suggested as a good time to go and complete the task. Having said that the queues were not large. (In fact a lot of the time I was the only person)
Well. I had to go to the Cargo terminal and get a bag. Standard type, packed back in NZ with clothes prezzies and a few sealed food supplies. Then couriered out here, sound fair enough?
Headed off to find the cargo terminal at the Abu Dhabi Airport and found a sign that said Cargo Terminal. Even though I'm not overly bright I liked my chances of having found my destination. Walked into the building up to the counter and proudly produced my letter from Inwards freight stating I had a suitcase to pick-up. (Mentioned nothing to the guy behind the counter that the package had taken 4 days to get from Wellington NZ to the Emirates Abu Dhabi and 5 days for the letter to get from them to me) The guy behind the desk kindly informed me I was at the administration part of the Cargo Terminal and I needed to walk down the corridor out front, walk past a series of doors (number undetermined) take a right and then a left and look for some people behind service desks not administration desks.
I was on a roll; I never missed a corner and came out as he had promised at the service desks. This was a long narrow room with 10 terminals on one long desk. I should have realized my mistake before because even though the two rooms had a similar number of people, were the same size, layout and the terminals were the same, administration desks are set at 1.2m and the service desks are set at .8m. There were chairs at each service terminal and there were chairs against the wall 3m away from the desk. You sit and wait at service desks where as you lean and talk at administration desks.
After queuing I sat down at the first available desk and the lady (who had a better beard than I can grow in a week) takes my passport and registers that I have arrived. The first of the forms are generated and the process has begun. I have to hand over the first of the payments and as far as I can tell it's for sitting in her chair. Back to the queue. (Which means go to the back wall sit in a chair and wait to be called to the next desk) Now there is a process order that cannot be broken and luckily when I randomly sat down at the 3rd desk this was in fact the first desk in the process. (Maybe that's why she called me up?) The fourth desk was the second desk and the first desk was the 3rd desk. The second desk was left strategically for employees to come and randomly interrupt whoever was dealing with my process at the time and ensure they didn't complete anything too quickly. Desks 5,6,7 were left for groups of people to come and discuss what they were having for tea, who had the latest dress designs, and cosmetic up-dates. In other words female chatter spots. It was very important that only males sat in desk 2 and females in desks 5, 6 and 7.
I eventually get called up by desk 4 and the next guy prints out a form and back to the queue. New queue new guy and this guy stamps the form. Ah but he also wants some money, so out with the cash and pay the man (Thanks to Wilf the guy at the office for warning me to take cash) Back to the queue. Now things start to really move along and desk 1 tells me to report to desk 8. Desk 8 is a guy that has had nobody at his desk the whole time I've been down at 3, 4 and 1. With smile intact I produce my ever growing bunch of forms and pass them to 8. He frowns reads a few words here and there and says this is dealt with by 10. (Now I know why he doesn't deal with anyone, he passes them on) Desk 10 is another lady who already has a customer with her so; you guessed it back to the queue.
I eventually get to this lady who prints out a new series of forms and tells me to go out back and identify my cargo. Yes, Yeha! I'm nearly done. (During this process 10 has a good handle on English and kindly explains to me the process I have and will go through. This was after I asked why I had to pay her more money) A nice old Pakistani guy with a bit of English takes me under his wing when I walk out back and takes me over to where the cargo is kept. I proudly hand over my form that desk 10 told me to show, but my bag is not here so I have to go to the other storage shed. My Pakistani mate takes me outside and points down the road to another building and says its okay to take my car. I drive down to this new building.
No English on this site anywhere. I hand over my forms again and a guy I have waved over disappears on a massive forklift out back. Another guy, an Emirate strolls up with a limited amount of English and wants to take control. He sends another guy after the first guy. (With a bigger forklift) He then directs me into his transportable shed/office and tells me I must queue here. (I'm the only one in the room but I join the queue obediently) The first forklift eventually arrives with my bag loaded on the front prongs (Its really heavy!) and the Emirate guy wants to unpack the whole thing to check it out.He starts to take things out and pile them up on the ground. So there we are in the middle of the yard clothes and items flying and he wants to know what everything is. We found my Christmas presents and he desperately wanted to unwrapped them. I managed to explain they were books so I saved the surprise for Christmas day. (On the titles anyway) Once he had ascertained I wasn't a threat to anyone with my coffee packets and coasters he eventually stopped. Now I'm finished, I can take my bag, repack everything and go. Nah! He gives me another form that I have to take back to the desk 10 so I can get a pink and yellow form that I must bring back to him. (10 didn't tell me about this?) I get in the car and drive back to the original building, find another park and join the queue for 10's desk again. Now there appears to be a little rule that you can never go straight to a desk without going to the queue. So even though 10 didn't have anyone in the chair I must queue first to earn the right to sit in her chair. However it's not too long and I'm invited to the chair (I used the best smile I could summon. Do you know how hard it is to smile at someone when you are trying not to look them in the eye? Not easy I tell you. I was getting some strange looks from the guys out back) I hand over my signed form from Mr Emirate so now I am the proud owner of a pink and a yellow form.
Back into the car and back down to the yard. I present my forms proudly and sign them dutifully in front of the officer and I am allowed to go and get my bag. (He didn't even make me queue, I'm just about on first name basis) Now the guy on the forklift wanted to load it into my boot, with the forklift! (It was heavy remember) We eventually communicated that there was no way he could do that, it just wouldn't fit. Could he and I lift it in the car? Oh no! I wasn't allowed to lift my luggage. He went off to locate help and eventually turned up with this young kid who didn't look to be a natural weightlifter. (But looks can be misleading) Between the two of them they did a sterling job and got it into the boot without any damage to themselves or the car. With a smile and a wave I went to get in the car and drive off but he got a little stressed and animated as the stack of forms I had in my hot little hand had one that I had to sign and give to him. Now that the documentation was complete I was ready to go. I still had 8 forms in my hand that I still haven't quite worked out what they are for but there was no way I was asking when it looked like I could make a clean break.
What did I learn from this little outing?
1: There are 12 forms you need to pick up cargo
2: I am now registered for 12 months as a legal importer of goods into the UAE
3: Allow 3 and 1/2 hours (at least ) to pick up your cargo
4: Take 200 dirhams ($100) when picking up your first cargo delivery.
Subsequent deliveries are cheaper as I am now registered (So long as I remember my number)
5: Look for kindly old Pakistani gentlemen that have good English
6: Watch out for Forklift drivers
7: Be patient (Schway Schway) or (Slowly slowly) and Inshallah (Or if Ala wills it you shall get your luggage)