…by Tijjani Muhammad Musa
Our Journey to the current number one tourist destination of the world; Dubai, started physically from Jeddah International Airport. But the real sojourn started much earlier and not in my home base, but in my mind. So, when I decided to travel to Makkah and perform Umrah i.e. the lesser Hajj in February 2015, it was a good idea to continue on to that much talked about city, rather than come back home and then embark upon the journey to Dubai afresh.
Subsequently, after our spiritual mission was accomplished, in company of my sister and wife, as a 20 years anniversary celebration, we headed for one of the Saudi Arabian airports. not the one that will take us home, but the one that will take us further east across the Arabian peninsula.
We commenced a two hours flight that added one more hour to the two, on the GMT timeline away from Kano, Nigeria. From Makkah and Madinah, the time difference between our home and these two holy cities is two hours, and from these cities to Dubai is an additional hour. But not after we had waited 4 solid hours at the airport. We came early, around 8:30am. This is a brief documentation of our memorable first time experience.
Dubai lay sprawled beneath us like a piece of art on a canvass. Its exotic skyscrapers dotting its landscape or is it desert-scape randomly, making the artwork assume a 3-Dimensional presentation some post modern master has expressed from the remotest part of his creative imagination.
The first thing that struck us was the now famed Palm Jumeirah, a reclaimed land from the sea, in the shape of a palm tree, which appeared magnificently displayed through the framed vista of the plane we arrived in at about 4:25pm.
As many stretch to catch a rare glimpse of Burj Khalifa, the multiple record breaking world tallest building from the air, I was searching the beaches run of the scenario below for the other Dubaian unique and monumental landmark, Burj Al-Arab.
A swerve to the left, left us gaping at another spread of breathtaking buildings that turned this new desert techno-city a destination for the rich, the affluent and the opportunity seeking folks, who relish in mixing business with pleasure.
We landed safely at the Dubai International Airport located at the city’s Al Garhoud district,whichI have read about so much and seen in pictures severally in international magazines and some local newspapers. It is reputed to have handled 71.6 million passengers, registered 405,750 aircraft movementsand 2.37 million tonnes of cargo in 2014. Wow, right?
The cabin crew smiled us out into a tube, which forced us into the airport structure and about one kilometer of briskly long walking, climbing down many staircases and riding up or down angular escalators, along horizontal ones, while others preferred to walk by its flow. We were greeted on both sides by multicolored, electronic advertising billboards. Until finally we arrived at their customs and immigration check points.
After the routine passport scrutiny and stamping, we were allowed to pass into the city through the airport lounges. One thing I immediately noticed was how some ladies we came together with, went through a metamorphosis of sort, by removing their “abayas” (the usually black Arab after dress, which covers a woman’s body shape and adornments from neck to toes) to reveal their voluptuous bodies fitted into very tight blouses and trousers, at the same time exposing their hair to the public.
This was because at Jeddah Airport, they would not be allowed to dress like that and so most f them cover up. But once they arrive in Dubai, like lizards shedding their skins in molt, they shed their upper garments and engage in revelations.
We (I and my wife of 20 years) dragged our travelling bags on wheels like most everybody else. Being first time visitors, not knowing exactly what to expect. As we burst into the expanse of the airport lounges, uniformed security guys were directing passengers.
We were invited over by one man in suit, he introduced himself as Sa’eed. He was a fast talking Arab, (I don’t know of which nationality though) who welcomed us to Dubai and inquired if it was our first time there. We answered to the affirmative and he professionally launched into inviting us to their office for some tourism opportunities.
I mistook him for one of the airport staff at first, but he was nothing of such. He was there picking at random potential clients for his corporate outfit, who were into selling what is known as Timeshare, a sort of holiday where interested persons can pay a token fee, yet enjoy their vacations at choice destinations around the world. Seeing me in company of my spouse, we fitted his criteria somehow.
Quickly before I could figure out exactly what was going on, he made some juicy “free” offers, after inviting us to their office for a presentation, there after which we were to be taken upon a sight-seeing tour of Dubai amongst other mouth-watering invites.
Upon showing us some flyers and requesting we choose where we would like to visit most in Dubai, each of us excitedly picked a tour destination of our choice. I, being an architect opted for a panoramic view of Dubai from the highest point in the city, the top most floor of Burj Khalifa and my wife drunk with romance settled for a romantic dinner on a boat cruise.
We separated, but not before he gave me a free (yes, again) etisalat line for my usage in Dubai. The offer was not optional as he request that I give him my Dubai number and when told I don’t have any, he brought out the SIM and taking my phone from me, removed my dormant Nigerian SIM and inserted the new one. Then immediately activated it.
After asking which hotel we would be staying and for how long, he carefully gave us a run down of what we needed to do upon reaching their office for our free guided tour the next day. He even advised us on how to chatter a taxi and the fee to pay. Requesting that I call him immediately we board the ride to the corporate headquarters.
We left him and pulling our luggage behind us, my wife muttering “Hmm, I don’t trust all these free offers. Nothing is free under the sun. There’s always a catch, right?” I smiled at her and responded “Somewhere, in there. There’s indeed a catch!” So, we walked out on to the taxi area.
To be continued…
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