Day 10: The Malls of Arabia

Day 10: Sunday, 26 April 2020 – Abu Dhabi, UAE (24.4539° N, 54.3773° E) (9,281 Covid-19 cases & 64 deaths as of today)

The Pivot. It takes place every year. It is the destination (aka a well-placed international-serving airport hub) that we inevitably have to stopover at, as we circle the globe in just 23-short days. There are a few such spots in the 21st century that have been specifically designed and built–if they build it they will come–for the hypermobile world we live in. (Or, used to live in?) They call them aerotropolises. And over the years we have used Manama-Bahrain, Doha-Qatar, Muscat-Oman and both Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, as previous pivot destinations. Usually we try to linger a day or two, as these nouveau riche nations prove to be such a great juxtaposition to their older rundown Middle Eastern brothers–that we may or may not, visit later on. Tip: Oman is a wonderful destination that NOBODY visits…go!

So, having said all that, we were somewhat surprised that we only got one memory from this part of the world with biggest, tallest, newest, fastest, most expensive and bestest in everything…and it is from Ali (Who just had a baby, named Freya! Congrats!) and her 2019 team NEXUS…that takes place in the United Arab Emirates:

“The scavenge: Take in a tanoura dance. If you’ve ever heard of the term “whirling dervish” then you probably have a reasonable idea what a tanoura dance might look like. A heavy skirt is worn and the dancer spins about fast enough that the skirt flares out. My teammate and I were treated to a performance while having dinner at a little desert camp outside of Abu Dhabi. At the end, the dancer looked for volunteers from the audience to join in, but everyone else was too shy, so of course I stepped up! My only question: how many points is joining in worth?”

Sally & Baraba at falcon hospital…

Team NEXUS exhibiting a fun case of Ethnic Costume Dementia…it happens.

Our 2019 tribe in Abu Dhabi

Since we’re at a transport hub, this might be a good chance to rehash an unpleasant experience we had in 2014. It was a typically sunny Sunday morning in Dubai when we awoke with all right in the world. Our well-designed plan was to have a busy but fun day for our travelers, enjoying a rather healthy breakfast in one country (UAE), with the plan to have lunch in a second still mysterious country during one of our thrilling 8-Hour Layover Challenges (Istanbul, Turkey), and then dinner and late night cocktails in a third country (Budapest, Hungary). All the work planning it, all the meticulous scheduling, all the organization skills…all for not. Here’s what happened: All our teams arrived at the Dubai International Airport (DXB) with plenty of time to take their confirmed spaces on their confirmed flight to Istanbul. As I watched our last few remaining teams (always lollygaggers) finally get checked-in, and now knowingly relieved that everyone had their assigned boarding passes, I noticed with amusement a robed sheik with a large family along with a retinue of subservient attendants, arrive in haste pushing themselves to the front of the queue, as they are prone to do. A briefcase is plopped on the counter and opened. Apparently there was a lot of money in that briefcase. Apparently the sheik has notoriety in the kingdom. The airline’s passenger service staff assemble. Heads shook. Hands waved. Calls are made. The next thing I know, as we are in the final boarding process for our DXB-IST flight, a kind of scuffle ensues at the gate. A few passengers with valid confirmed boarding passes in hand, are now being unceremoniously denied boarding; including six of our adventurers, including our defending champs The Ogopogos from Canada, as well as team Heckarewee, also from Canada, and the GeoTrekers. As I quickly express my deep concern with unmovable and unempowered gate agents, the sheik and his entourage are escorted onto the plane behind me. Ahhh…

Needless to say, our day was shot to shit…but we all did eventually get to Budapest, the final six arriving exactly 24-hours later on the next days flight. Up to then, it was the only major snafu to date–knocking on the wood of my desk, in fifteen around the world adventures including hundreds of flights; we have had 10 participants in total miss their scheduled flights: these six, a gal in 2002 who forgot her passport in her Istanbul hotel safe, one PAX was left in Poland on our return flight back to the USA because his First Class ticket wasn’t in order!?, and last year in 2019, team Order & Chaos were left in Vietnam because of a spelling mistake on their tourist visa to enter Myanmar. They all arrived to their impending destinations quickly thereafter. But that time in Dubai, I still take it personally, and will never again travel to the Middle East–without a briefcase of money! And yes, not to worry about the three teams left in UAE, led by Gerry’s (RIP) invaluable years of international travel experience, they of course were all put up in a splashy DXB airport-adjoined hotel for the night with sincere apologies expressed and tabs paid. And apparently their collective dinner, and rather lengthy bar bill entered four digit territory! Well done

The 2014 tribe intack…Yes, we all make mistakes!

Stay safe and well. Till tomorrow…

Please send any memories you want us to post to ringmaster (at) globalscavengerhunt (dot) com