On the Way to Tanzania, via Dubai

My first international travel with the non-profit organization I work for was Tanzania.  Originally intended as a one week review of operational controls, a second week was added to the trip to get me exposure to the field work we do in the developing world.  I jumped at the opportunity to see firsthand what my new organization did and looked forward to my first opportunity to see sub-Saharan Africa.

Again, getting there is half the fun

Being mindful of cost, I found what was an incredibly cheap fare from Atlanta to Dar es Salaam for less than $1500.  I did have to connect in Gatwick (connection hell, second perhaps to CDG) and then in Dubai.  Connecting in Gatwick became more hell than I expected when I was informed I could only continue with one carry-on after standing in a security line for connections that would make a tortoise race look speedy.  I had with me my laptop bag and a small backpack with camera and personal items.  Shocked at this absurd rule from a major international gateway (which I have proactively sought avoiding ever since and recommend likewise), I had to reconfigure things such that I could send via checked luggage my now fairly empty laptop bag.  Surely, as a passenger I could be notified of these sclerotic rules AHEAD of getting to the annoying airport?

In London I switched to Emirates Airlines and things picked up quickly.  What a fantastic airline.  Though traveling coach/tourist class, you are treated as if you had paid business class.  Some frills (like footrests) but, more than anything, it was the flight attendants’ attitude towards their customers.  I think U.S. based airlines have forgotten who it is they are seeking to serve.  You don’t have to spend money, just please treat me nice and pretend you are happy I am there.

The special surprise for me on this Dubai-bound flight (besides the footrest) were the cameras in the underbelly and nose of the aircraft.  You could watch from your seat monitor as you flew over things or the space straight ahead!   A little freaky at first, it quickly became fascinating.  Tops was watching the approach and landing in Dubai from the camera feeds.

Laying it over in Dubai

In Dubai, I had a very long 9 hrs. layover.  I had tried to book a room in the hotel in the secured zone of the airport but it had been full weeks in advance and I didn’t feel like leaving the airport.  Through research, I did find out that for like $12, you could take a shower in the gym facilities at the airport.  These shower facilities were very nice and spacious (you got a private room) and that shower was heavenly.  It helped me re-charge a little bit but 9 hrs. was too much time.  Since I was traveling alone, it was hard for me to lower my guard enough to nap in any of the sitting areas or areas with the seats made for napping (nice airport!).  So I was extremely fatigued and lucky to not have fallen asleep unexpectedly and deeply before my flight to Dar!    I slept like a baby on the flight to Dar and I do not fall asleep easily on airplanes…

img_1478The Dubai airport is very glitzy in a commercial/Las Vegas-ish kind of way.  But it felt nice and clean.  It was interesting to see the flights to all these, to me, very exotic destinations that one rarely hears off in the U.S.:  Khartoum, D’jamena, Tehran, Riyadh, etc.  Very cool.  Then you see the passengers from all over the world who cross paths at the airport with different languages, clothing, and customs…  People ARE people.   Seeing people sleeping UNDER the seats in the hallways of the concourse sure made it feel like the Dubai airport was the air-equivalent of a train station of the world, if such a thing existed.

The Dubai airport is also known for its shopping arcade.  I did compare prices on some things and they did not seem really cheaper than back home (for example, electronics).  That may have changed since I went a couple of years ago but it is best to do research before heading there to make sure you know if you are getting a deal…  It may be that the real deals are in things like jewelry but that was not an area I researched nor was looking to shop in.  Does anyone have any insights into what are the best deals to be had in that airport?  Any other suggestions for things to do in that airport or the ease of getting in and out of the airport for a hotel stay in between flights?

In future entries, I will share more about Dar, Mwanza, the Serengeti, and Zanzibar.  Stay tuned!

Comments

  1. Since I wrote this entry, the following article was published talking about Emirates vs. US airlines quality of service in international flights. I feel somewhat validated 🙂

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2009/02/a_class_apart.cfm?Fsrc=glvrnwl

  2. Thanks for your blog and for sharing your experiences!
    I will be in transit in Dubai and I couldn’t found any info about the possibility of taking a shower at the airport (I will also have a very long connection)
    Could you tell me where this facility is to be found?
    Thanks again,
    Yannick

    • Yannick, glad to hear it helped! If I recall correctly, you go towards the airport hotel and there is a gym called G-Force next to the hotel lobby area. If you are walking from the main concourse hallway towards the hotel lobby area, the entrance to the gym area was to the left by the external glass wall. The gym (2 yrs ago, at least) allowed you to rent the shower room as I describe. It was heavenly and very clean! Please do let us know whether that still exists and available to the public! Safe travels!

  3. That s great, thanks!

  4. Nice post! Keep it real.I have looked over your blog a few times and I love it.

  5. guideontravel says:

    These places are excellent…I have never visited any of these places…But I am so excited to visit any of these places…..

Trackbacks

  1. […] 2007, I went to Tanzania for work reasons.  Two other entries in this blog cover the trip over (http://ilivetotravel.wordpress.com/2009/01/31/on-the-way-to-tanzania-via-dubai/) and  some observations about Dar es Salaam […]

  2. […] reasons and I was excited to get to this part of Africa.  Two other entries in this blog cover the trip over and  some observations about Dar es Salaam.  This entry will share more of the logistical items […]

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