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I became acquainted with Dubai International Airport in 2001. I was flying Delhi-Dubai-Athens and back and was a Ph.D. student then. I was wide-eyed too, sometimes I miss that, I don’t think I am that wide-eyed anymore! This was my second trip abroad, the first being to Singapore in 1999! However, in a way this was my first real trip abroad as I was completely on my own. When I went to Singapore I stayed with a classmate’s family and was well protected.
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If you throw your mind to the date once again, 2001 was a long time ago. As I was doing my Ph.D. at IIT Kanpur, I had internet access at the institute but it was damn slow. A lot of social media platforms I use regularly, were not even born. So we booked the tickets from a travel agent. He gave us an Emirates Flights. We didn’t even look at the tickets closely. It was only after I boarded the Dubai-Athens flight, I realized I was booked as a vegan instead of a vegetarian. I was drooling over the desserts that others ate while I got just fruits.
However, it was only on the return leg that the real fun began! I realized that I had a 23 hours 40 minutes layover before my Dubai-Delhi flight. Had it been over 24 hours, I was entitled to a hotel room. The time was just short of 24 hours and I was not savvy enough to argue my case. If it would have happened today I would have probably taken up the matter on Twitter!
So, I walked every inch of Dubai Airport. I was enamored with the gold shops! I explored every nook and cranny of the souvenir shop which had exotic dates (the kind that grow on the trees, not what you get on Tinder) they had camels of all sizes and shape (not the real ones, the souvenir kind), I also remember the ornate surahis. But being a student on a meager scholarship made almost everything out of reach!
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Eventually I went to look for food. Then the food court used to be on the first floor. As I am a vegetarian I eventually ended up eating a dosa. I eventually got tired. I discovered reclining chairs and claimed one as mine. I wanted to crash for a few hours. All was good initially. But then I found the AC too strong at the spot I was trying to sleep! As those were the early days of traveling, I did not have a shawl. Now I invariably keep a shawl in my shoulder bag for such eventualities. I have learnt my lesson. I slept uncomfortably for a while. Then the hours felt interminable. However, I boarded my flight in the end. As it was Dubai-Delhi flight I got vegetarian food, along with the delicious desserts.
I have taken flights with Emirates after that as well, I have transited via Dubai again. Those have been a breeze! And if you would ask me how would I rate my first experience, I would say it was still fun, after all I remember so much about that trip!
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