I spent the morning cleaning and picked Caleb up from work at 11:45. We left the house after 2p so that we could get Caribou Coffee before leaving Bahrain – Caleb’s request. I’ve become more familiar with Bahrain since my last trip to the airport three months ago and have no trouble finding a parking spot in Lot D close to the one I used last time. I’m grateful to have learned something, if not more of the language, which I’m lacking.
We tried checking in at 2:30, but it becomes available three hours before departure at 3:15, or 24 hours in advance online. Caribou happens to be on the other side of security, so Caleb will have to settle for Seattle’s Best downstairs, along with Papa John’s (my first time in Bahrain), and Cinnabon for 10.8 dinars, not bad for airport food.
Rhea, woman who volunteered her daughter, messages me that she will drop Annie, her daughter, off at 5pm. That’s the last I will hear from them. We ordered the veggie pizza with spinach Alfredo sauce, garlic-parmesan bread sticks, raspberry syrup coffee and a cinnamon roll flavoured one that was mostly caramel, and two mini-chocolate buns. I got mine heated and they boiled the toppings in the microwave.
We went back to check-in at 3:30, at booth 20, thanks to the guy at the other end of the airport. He gave us a sticker to approve our carry-on without checking the size or weight. We went through the passport section just as quickly and then security. Caleb had to throw away the last slice of pizza and we were on our way. We walked to Gate 31, as written on our ticket, but when I came back from the toilet the gate had changed. It would move again while I napped for an hour. Caleb would use my shut-eye time to buy a water and some Swiss chocolates to hide in his bag – as wife treats during the trip – until they melted.
We board the bus from Gate 33 at 6p and get driven to the covered steps of our plane. Seat 22 B and C would have us next to a lady that ate some nuts and played on her phone before passing out for the remainder of the flight – so much for the window seat. She asked if we had been on holiday in Bahrain. I told her that was home. We are on holiday now. At 6:30p, the safety video came on – once in Arabic and again in English. Caleb thinks a language option would help speed up the process, but I wonder if that would also change the characters on-screen.
We get to Dubai at 8p, an hour ahead of Bahrain, and it takes two seconds to get through customs. I answered the questions for Caleb – no we don’t have a visa yet, yes this is ‘our’ first time using a passport and flying in. Caleb has been here before, but was delivered by boat with a military ID.
I’ve been to lots of airports, some more than others (Chicago, Phoenix), and hadn’t noticed how themed they were until landing in Miami, Las Vegas, and Dubai. I think it makes guests feel more welcomed and gives us an idea of what to expect in the city – lots of flags, lights, colors, and hospitality.
We get pointed in the right direction each time, but it takes us a while to find a cab (like the fancy ones my Grandma drives) that would take us to Terminal 3 from 1. I should’ve known the Lexus without the cheap looking cab sign on it would cost more. Our ten minute ride (how big is this airport?!) cost us 70 dirham with enough time to read the comics and horoscopes provided – Something new and exciting is a pleasant diversion.
I was going to argue with the guy and wanted to question him when he wondered why I would need change – because I carry exact cash for your cab buddy. He showed me the meter from his cell phone and said it was company policy to charge this much. I know. It’s my fault for getting into a vehicle with someone in a suit, instead of a uniform or jeans. We stop for coffee at Costa to give us the energy, and mind power, needed to keep going to get the rental car and find our hotel room. Two coffees will cost us 34 dirham.
Only an hour and a half in the country and we’ve already spent $28 or 10.5 dinars. I’m thankful for the exchange rate and Mom is curious about how much it cost us to fly out here. It was $188.50 each, like going from Austin to Houston, only half the price for the flight and petrol to get there, and 2.5 times cheaper for daily parking fees. Just another reason I love living and traveling in the Middle East.
It’s already 8:45 by the time we reach National Rental Car – across the street and down to the left, near entrance one. We got dropped off at 3. The guy made a copy of my passport, driver’s license, and credit card (that he held 1000 dirham on), and gave me the key to a white Ford Figo. He gave me a gate key and led us out of the parking lot, so I could return the key. I like the size of the car and the easy manoeuvring, i.e.. short wheelbase.
Caleb has found directions to the hotel, but we are slow-moving in merging traffic, especially when we need to go straight and see arrows to turn on the street. There are still plenty of signs in English to appease my American mind and we find the Royal Grand in Sharjah (another emirate) after only missing one right turn. We can’t park in the hotel garage until we have a room key. I find a spot in front of the tailor shop and we use that to check-in.
The guy doing our paperwork at 10p asks where I’m from in America. Before he saw my passport he thought I was Russian. I thank him in Arabic which impresses him. More copies of my records are made and I’m handed the key to room 509. We’re escorted to the parking lot where I see numbered spots and try to find one with our room number. I stop at car spot 705 and the attendant has followed us to show us our room and indicate what the letters mean in the elevator – R for restaurant and Gym for pool and massage also.
We put our bags down at 10:30p and a woman knocks on the door to check the contents of the mini-bar, sans alcohol. We go downstairs to visit the market/mall across the street. The market has groceries on the bottom floor and clothes on the top floor. The mall on the corner has two floors up and two down. The shops started closing and the lights turning off at 11:30, regardless of where customers were, otherwise we would’ve explored longer.
We spent most of our time in the Hello Kitty section. I wanted to buy the pajamas, the one-piece swimsuit, and the jacket in the 10-14 year old section. There is also lots of shiny things, jewelry, and sunglasses to try on. The pool is closed on our way up. I’m hoping for an awesome panorama later. Back at the room and we’re both exhausted, but awake enough to take a peek at the Sharjah booklet, and seeing what this emirate has to offer, before turning out the lights.