Events leading up to the hotel
On Tuesday night we had treated ourselves to a night in Cape Town. Up until then we had been staying at a house in Paarl, about 40 minutes away which meant driving in and out. We stayed the night in an apartment at the Waterfront which was brilliant and we enjoyed a great meal out and a lovely bottle of wine.
On Wednesday we mulled around a bit in the morning before, and after checking out of the apartment. We had nowhere to go so we drove over to the airport and dropped the hire car off about 2.30 and planned to get something to eat, read and relax once we got to airside as our fight wasn't until around 6pm. We got through to airside around 3ish - what a disappointment! We found out that there were only three departures from the international section that we were in for that afternoon so many of the shops and things had closed. There was only a small coffee shop not really stocking very much and ridiculously expensive newsagent. I went to buy a paperback but it was going to cost me over twenty pounds for the cheapest one - apparently books are imported and therefore cost a lot. God bless amazon that's all I can say. So we sat watching domestic planes take off for a good two hours. Matt used his iphone to check his work email and was shocked to learn that a colleague of his (aged around 27) had died. It was a very saddening moment and we sat reflecting on what a wonderful time we'd had and how grateful we were for everything.
We boarded and took off and had a good flight.
Neither of us managed to sleep so when we arrived in Dubai at 5am local time we'd been awake for a long time. As many of you will know, I am grumpy without sleep. I am often grumpy with sleep so without is unbearable. It was 27 degrees and although air conditioned, the airport was busy and warm. By the time we found the gate (Dubai airport is HUGE) there was about two hours until our flight but the notice said that boarding would start at 7.20am. At 7am a lot of activity started happening and a queue formed to go through to the gate area. Next to us was a similar queue for a flight to Glasgow. Suddenly, the Glasgow flight was cancelled and we watched in amazement as 300 people tried to follow one Emirates member of staff through the packed airport. We stood sympathising and chuntering about the lack of coordination....and then the same happened to us and we realised inital lack of coordination wasn't their fault!
We walked through the airport for 10 minutes trying to keep up with 'our little man' before arriving at a transfer desk where we queued for over an hour. We were not initially told why the flight had been cancelled and people started speculating, or as we call it in the psychololgy world: talking bulls***.
We were told that we were to collect our luggage and that we would be taken to a hotel and then our fights would be rebooked. This sounds wonderfully simple as I type it now but this message was not given in a coherent fashion - it was obtained by god knows how many people lining up to ask a series of questions which led to this being the outcome. By this time, all UK flights had been cancelled and there were around a thousand people in the queue waiting for special vouchers to be stamped and to get a special immigration permit as we were not supposed to be entering the country.
We then walked to wait for our cases which took ages. Despite cases coming off in a reaonsably steady flow, the belt got changed so we all had to walk off in another direction - it was all getting a bit silly and people were really at the hysterical laughing stage - it was all very amusing.....masking major anxiety that noone knew what was going to happen next. Everyone was restless and talking over one another and picking up bags that weren't theirs and throwing them back on again. There was still no information and because it was about 6am UK time, few people could ring home. I of course have the luxury of a father who would have access to press association news wire from 7am BST so I left a voicemail and asked him to ring me!!
We were very relieved to get both our cases (we were without them for 24 hours when we got to Cape Town so we thought bad luck may have struck twice) and we made our way to the exit. Where we queued, or should I say waited in a confined space with no particular order, rhyme or reason for another time which felt like eternity. We got our passports stamped from immigration - we can stay a month - and then went through customs. People were being pulled over to have luggage looked at and I thought that I may cry if this was the case but then thought that it might mean that I got to sit down so I ended up looking longingly for it to happen. it didn't. We waited en-masse for buses which were going to transport us to the mystery hotel. It was taking so long that the officials decided that they would put us in taxis instead. The taxis that were already parked were briefed that we did not have to pay for them but the one Matt and I were put in wasn't - he just pulled up as we got to the front of the queue so when we got to the hotel he wouldn't let us go. We didn't have any cash to pay him and had been told not to. We joined a queue to check in and he pushed his way to the front, ranting to the reception staff in Arabic and pointing and waving his finger at us. He made Matt sign the receipt and then stayed with us until we checked in. Fortunately the receptionist waved her fist back and did enough for him to leave us alone.
The reception area was chaotic. People were asking questions to people who didn't speak good English, still making up their own version of events and then resorting to British war-effort mentality where a cup of tea was going to solve everything. We got into our room and phoned our families to let them know where we were (and to make sure the cat got fed) and though we were thinking 'my god, this isn't the Burj (see pic above), it's better than the airport floor and we'll be home tomorrow.' It was a strange mixture of gratitude and worry.
We had a shower and got changed. We were exceptionally lucky in this regard because we had been staying at a house, we'd actually done some washing before coming home and had some clean clothes to wear. We met many people who didn't have their cases and only had the clothes they were wearing and there were quite a few people travelling on their own.
We went to lunch using our voucher. This was a hot buffet and very nice affair with a salad buffet too - until you looked a bit closer and realised that about 500 people were breathing, sweating, coughing and spluttering over it all and then touching the handles of the servers and stuff. I was a great advert for OCD, cleaning things off with tissue and chosing food like beef over chicken, banning us from eggs and salad and only taking food that had been just brought out.
We returned to the room and slept for 3 hours before repeating the whole exercise for dinner. We were so tired as that was the first proper sleep since Tuesday night and it was now Thursday evening.
It was isolating in the room. We had very little information, there only English speaking channel on the TV was Fox and this was not a time for watching Ugly Betty. We had been told to stay in the hotel and wait for news. We were in a separate builing for stop-overs from the main hotel and there was nowhere to be other than in our drab room. We kept going on and on about how lucky we were (as Emirates were funding all this) but I think we were both praying that we would be home. We had texts which implied jealousy of us being on an extended honeymoon - there was nothing to be jealous of at that stage let me assure you! We listened to an event of some kind going on outside our window (we think it was a school fete/evening) before going to sleep - in our separate single beds!! Neither of us slept very well.
Here endeth the summary of events leading up to today.