It was nice flying Singapore Airlines again. This time I was flying to Dubai, then on Qatar to Doha. The flight was very nice. There were only four of us in First Class on the B777-300. Unfortunately, this was not the "B777-300ER" just a B777-300, so there were no individual suites or seats. Old fashioned two-by-two. But since there were only four of us, there was nobody seated next to me. Good thing, because I spread my stuff out on a flight...magazines, pillows, etc. The flight routing was interesting: southeast out of Istanbul towards the Syrian coast, then over Syria eastern Jordan and Saudi Arabia. We skirted around Iraq the entire time. At one point you could see the desert highway in Jordan which leads to Baghdad and you could see the border crossing in the distance where the road widens for the checkpoints on both sides. We landed in Dubai after dark, the entire city was lit up. The new Burj Dubai, already the tallest building in the world at over 600 meters and not yet completed, towers above everything in Dubai. It makes 50 storey buildings look miniscule.
The Dubai airport is like Las Vegas on steroids: masses of people and chrome and neon everywhere. The immigration queue was a nightmare. There is a dedicated First and Business Class line, but no one at Terminal 1 cares. Every line was at least 20 deep of migrant workers coming from Bangladesh, Pakistan or India. Needless to say, the lines didn't move quickly. By the time I finally got through, the luggage was off the belt and sitting on the floor next to the belt. From Dubai I was flying on to Doha for overnight, then Yemen, then Ethiopia before returning to Dubai. I didn't want to deal with, or worry about, my bag while there. So I packed a "weekender" bag that I could just carry on. I took my bag to the hotel where I'd be staying on my return.
I could have overnighted in Dubai, then gotten up too early for Emirates' 7am nonstop to Sana'a. By flying out of Doha tomorrow, the flight was at 12noon. And best of all, by flying Qatar Airways in first, I get to avail myself of their first class terminal in Doha. Oh yeah, it was also cheaper than flying Emirates nonstop from Dubai.
Arriving back at the airport, I had plenty of time to get on an earlier flight to Doha.
I was scheduled after midnight, but there were flights at 9pm, 10pm and 11pm. Unfortunately their ground agents (who are outsourced from Aeroflot-no kidding) couldn't seem to figure out how to get me on one of the earlier flights. They told me to check out at the transfer desks out at the gates. Ok. Well, that was a nightmare. Again lines were ridiculous at the transfer desk. The set up was also frustrating because you have to "leave" security to check at the desk then go through screening again. Only one agent seemed to be capable of handling Qatar Airways as well as other airlines. He was inundated with connecting passengers from the subcontinent again. To make matters worse, his computer kept going offline. He just sat there tapping until it connected again. I was astounded that he couldn't just pick up the phone and call someone. He just sat there. He sent me to the gate for the 9pm flight that had one seat left. But I missed the cutoff time for the flight. They sent me back to Mr. Wizard at the transfer desk. The gate agent assured me that there were plenty of seats on the 11pm. Mr. Wizard did manage to get on the 11pm. So I cleared security for the third time tonight and got to Doha at least 1.5 hours earlier than I was originally scheduled.
Arrival in Doha was such a breeze. The Doha airport has no jet bridges. All passengers are bussed. Qatar Airways uses specially designed busses for First Class passengers only. No standing on these buses; you want to sit in the plush leather seats generously spaced in the bus. The immigration process is a piece of cake. No lines. You walk up to the officer. She asks if you need a visa. If "yes," she swipes your credit card for $20 and you're done.
Doha is just as modern as Dubai but on a much smaller scale. Therefore, I think it is so much nicer than Dubai. Doha has huge building projects going on too, just not nearly as many. Even better, Doha doesn't have the traffic issues like Dubai. So getting around is a breeze. Doha even has the best of American culture: Hardees!
My hotel tonight? Have you guessed it? The Four Seasons Doha. Yep, they have one in Doha, too. I stayed here in July2007 when I came for the weekend. Very nice hotel. It was 1am by now, so off to bed. My real adventure begins tomorrow...Yemen.
Before heading to the airport I had to stop at the health clinic in Istanbul for a yellow fever vaccination. Why? Because I decided to go to Ethiopia after Yemen. All the guidebooks and internet info stated that a yellow fever vaccination certificate was required to enter Ethiopia. Since I made the change to my itinerary, I was committed. The concierge arranged my visit to the clinic. The clinic was a riot. It was on the waterfront and clinic for seamen. Now, I don't think I looked like much of a seaman arriving in a BMW with a driver from the Four Seasons. But they "let" me get vaccinated. Most of you know how much I hate shots, or anything sticking me. Oh joy. No, I didn't pass out, but I now have a curious vaccination booklet in Turkish as a souvenir.