Wellington to Prague via Sydney and Abu Dhabi
Wednesday 22 August
Here we are in Abu Dhabi Airport.
NEVER, NEVER EVER transit through Abu Dhabi. Approaching Abu Dhabi, I see pretty white domed buildings that turn out to be the terminals. Not only are they pretty on the outside but inside the rounded ceilings are covered in beautifully coloured mosaics.
And that’s where the good stuff ends.
The shape makes for a cacophany of sound, and an inefficient layout with too little seating and people wandering around everywhere. We need boarding passes for the next flight but instead of simply scanning our information, everything must be entered by hand. There are phone calls when something goes wrong, though what that is, we don’t know because the staff at the counter are unhelpful and unfriendly. Other staff wander arbitrarily through the growing queues writing on tickets and waving confused people away without any explanations. Technology is primitive and the going so slow that we wait over half an hour for several staff members to process us, taking turns to pick up and put down our information.
I’d hoped to be able to walk for half an hour or so and raise my feet to reduce the swelling. But the man who met me at the plane with a wheelchair keeps me in it. I try to explain that I want to walk but he says I will get too tired. I stand up and walk for a little but he soon has me back in the chair. I watch the people around me. It’s fascinating seeing such diversity, and especially to see how the young Muslim women add beautiful embroidery to their clothing. Even those in full burka have elegantly embroidered patterns on the edges of their robes. Some young women, of whom you can see only their eyes and hands, have perfectly manicured and painted finger nails.
It takes over half an hour to give us boarding passes, then it’s down to the gate. Can I climb stairs? Yes, I can. Again and again I’m asked this. It turns out that there is no air bridge!
We arrive at security and the man pushing my wheelchair takes us past the queue to be processed. The man in charge yells at him and tells him to take us to the back of the queue. Our man ignores him and throws our bags over the rope and onto the conveyor belt. There are no boxes for neatly keeping your things together. Baggage goes through higgledy piggledy. I set the alarm off, of course. I always do. A woman takes me to another room to pat me down. I guess a woman cannot be seen being touched by a stranger in public.
We wait … And wait. Passengers have to be driven on a bus to another terminal (?!) to board the plane. We wait some more. The plane should have left by now. We are waiting for someone to unlock the door to the outside! Every now and then someone rattles the doors, but no, they are still locked.
A bus is waiting. There are more people than seats, so another bus is needed. Nobody had thought about how seats would be needed!
Finally, we’re on the bus on the way to the plane. When we arrive, despite having agreed that I would climb the steps up to it, a man wants me to enter on a fork lift. No, I want to climb the steps. He insists. I insist. He insists. I insist. I win.
I climb the steps and we’re on our way to Prague!