Travel forces us to become flexible. It just does. Something goes amiss and you’re forced to change course. Or even chart an entirely new course. It’s part of the process and usually everything turns out OK.
Last April, we finally began our long journey home from Namibia. We managed to plan it so that John, Brittany and I all left on the same itinerary: WDH > JNB > DXB > SEA. The booking agent with Emirates assured us that although the connection time in Dubai was tight, we would surely make our connecting flight to Seattle. “It’s in the same terminal,” she’d said. “They’ll hold the flight if needed,” she’d quipped.
Our flight out of Johannesburg was delayed and sure enough, our flight to Seattle left just minutes before we stepped off in Dubai. We were stuck overnight, since the next flight wasn’t until the morning. At first we were all miffed. We were tired and John especially was ready to be home. But, after a few moments, we realized that we’d just scored a (free) quickie stopover in Dubai.
We were whisked away to the hotel, which also happened to be owned by Emirates Airlines. The hotel, although acceptable, left much to be desired in terms of service and amenities. Our first room did not have hot water. We had to pay for internet. The food was a canteen-style buffet. On the bright side, it did have a bar and we were all in need of a drink.
Our hotel offered tour packages, ranging from market tours to 4×4 desert adventures. We decided to make the best of our time by going on an all afternoon city tour. The tour itself was nothing spectacular. It was your standard “go to the carpet demonstration and then get pressured into buying a carpet” type tour. But, we had a great time anyway. It was an excuse to see a new place.
Dubai rises out of the desert, a shining jewel nestled against the emerald ocean. I was dazzled and amazed by the sheer wealth of the city as we drove down the main highway. Cranes and construction sites squeezed in between towering skyscrapers. Mosques and open air markets sat next to luxury apartment complexes. The streets, buildings and parking lots were all new and spotlessly clean.
We stopped at a beach to admire the view of the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. A light ocean breeze cooled my face as I stood and watched Lamborghinis and lifted F-150s drive past, filled with men in thawbs, music blaring. Clusters of families gathered on rugs spread out on the sand while their children chased each other, shrieking with laughter. It was lovely. After a quick drive through palm island, we headed over to the Burj Kalifa, the tallest building in the world, where we watched a fountain show with a bazillion other people.
Despite the fact that we were staying in a mediocre hotel, we were grateful to be spending the night horizontal. We rose early the next morning, bright eyed and ready to begin our journey home.
So what if we arrived a day later than we planned? Our mishap allowed us to discover an exciting new place. Dubai captured my attention and I can’t wait to go back.