November 10th, 2010: Depart Qatar Airlines at 12:30 (noon) from Istanbul, arrive 5:20 pm Doha (Qatar),
Depart Doha 9:20 p.m. on Flydubai – a mideast bargain airline. Arrive Dubai 11:20 pm.
Then take a bus to Muscat, Oman, my destination (hopefully departing 7 a.m. – first bus)
There are time zone changes involved in each stop, adding to the confusion.
When would I sleep? Where would I sleep? Would I sleep?
What is the bus schedule? Where do I get the bus? How do I reserve a bus? How will I ever sleep?
Why this insanity, you may ask. Well, I wanted to see Oman. It’s different (I think – at least that’s what I read). My flight to Johannesburg gives me a 1 week layover in Doha (per my request). The simple journey would have been a RT flight on an airline with good scheduling. Cost: $450. The routing I created costs $160 RT.
I could not locate an Oman Lonely Planet book in all of Istanbul (believe me, I tried). I finally downloaded the Oman chapter from the appropriate LP. It tells you about buses departing from Muscat to Dubai,but not the other way around. I had also checked many travel forums. This is what I gleaned:
2 major bus companies with buses leaving from Dubai starting at 6:30 am. They don’t respond to e-mails. You need a reservation; you don’t need a reservation.
I searched travel forums to glean how to deal with my long layovers. What I garnered:
Doha airport is a nightmare.
It’s dirty, crowded, chaotic, old, and finding a place to sleep requires ingenuity
The bathrooms can be dirty and crowded with women bathing in the sink
In these searchings I had also read an entry about the horrors of flying on Qatar Airlines (my airline from Istanbul) & how if their lines were too long and you missed your flight,tough luck.
The Dubai airport story was more positive, except it said it’s freezing cold from the excessive air conditioning. (It wasn’t, and nothing I read explained that I would be in the “old” terminal, miles from the nice terminals that everyone wrote about).
Since I got my boarding pass all nicely printed the day before,and got to the airport 3 hours early, I wasn’t too concerned about the horrors of Qatar Airlines. I was the first person to check in for my flight and the woman who checked me in let me take her picture (she was very pretty) and then requested we become Facebook friends.
Boarding was a breeze except they switched gates on me and when I got to the gate it was deserted and the fantasies that went through my mind could create a science fiction movie plot.
Istanbul Ataturk Airport was filled with people in all sorts of colorful costumes. Some looked like they were from Africa, and others – lots of men – were wearing sort of ratty white towels & sandals – had no idea where they were from. I’d already gotten accustomed to women with varying levels of cover-up, going up to the entire face being covered, not even eyes showing. So, it was the be-costumed men that fascinated me, especially men in dresses or towels.
Finally asked man-in-towel (see photo) what country he was from. Turns out it’s what men wear on their way to the Haj (he was from Egypt).
I think I look just about as odd to most who see me as the woman with the furry vest looked to me.
The first thing I noticed as plane landed: no high rises.
Second thing: men in dresses.
Don’t ask me why, but I love it. Seeing all these outfits I think takes me back to my youth in the 60’s, when we all wore outrageous costumes and headbands. Also, it’s so unreal it simply feels psychedelic. I keep laughing inside and sometimes it bubbles out.
My Doha Airport experience:
– looks shiny & new
– bathroom immaculately clean
- all the help appears to be Indian, so they speak perfect English with incredible politeness
- Was gently guided by helpful Indian to “Transit Counter.” No wait. They took my passport and luggage claim and told me to come back later. They would take care of getting my luggage transferred, and issue me a new boarding pass. (They did.)
- I made a bee-line to the “Quiet Lounge” per web suggestions, & netted a seat with a great view for people watching (from where I took some of these photos)————-
- That’s a lot of words, dear friends. I’m now safely in Oman, and will fill you in on this very different experience later on.