Midnight Flight to the Middle East
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
Maintaining Composure in Comedic Environs!
The Internet, cell phones, and some wonderful Apps have made communicating in foreign countries much easier. But there is still always the challenge of not knowing what is happening around you if you cannot speak the language. This happened to me a couple years ago when traveling to the Middle East.
I got on a plane at 2:00 AM in Bahrain heading for Doha Qatar.
Having just arrived from Europe and my first time in the Middle East, I found my senses completely awake, while taking it all in. Trying to comprehend everything I was seeing in the middle of the night, was quite challenging.
The wheels had not even taken off the ground and I had developed several indelible memories. Even though we only expected 10 to 15 minutes in the air, the stewards were starting snack and beverage service before the aircraft door closed. With so much outside heat and humidity filling the cold plane, the air conditioning system was billowing out white clouds of condensed cold air. The lights were dim in the cabin. Everyone was is in traditional Middle Eastern clothing. I felt like I was the only westerner on the aircraft.
Interestingly, behind me and to the left of my aisle seat, someone of significant notoriety was trying to get situated. It quickly became an awkward situation as the steward continued running down the isles, throwing himself to his knees and attempting appeasement by providing magazines, snacks, and drinks for this man.
As we begin to lift off, trash from the snack service was being collected. Shortly into the climb, the cabin lights dimmed, but for only about three minutes. Through the dark window, I could see the fringe of the island below, pitch black of water, and the upcoming city lights of Doha. It is amazing how close these two countries reside. The cabin lights abruptly came back on and the jet began its descent.
As we began our approach to the airport, I noticed a woman in traditional black robe walk towards my location. She passed by and approached the man that had earlier been entertaining himself with the diligently minded steward. The man yelled at her, but she kept coming. As she got closer, he let her have it; she turned around and went back forward. On her way down the aisle, she reversed her direction and started backwards again, and the man scold her once more. This time I think she finally got the message and went back forward and sat down in her seat.
Once we were on the ground, long before we approached the gate, nearly everyone stood up. Passengers begin opening the overhead bins and removing suitcases. More than once I observed people being hit in the head and shoulders with bags.
More than once I observed people being hit in the head and shoulders with bags.
As soon as we hit the gate and stopped, even before the seat belt sign went off, passengers were forcing their way forward to the door. The steward was unable to control the unruly group. I even observed one person climbing over the seats trying to get off the plane. We were not late. The flight only took 15 minutes. By most standards, the airline did a great job of departure and arrival.
It was the people and the conversation that I found extraordinary. Never had I seen a more disorderly and rambunctious folks on aircraft. Others I have talked to since, and I have heard it is not uncommon to see animals such as a small goat on Middle Eastern flight.
I must admit it the disorderly behavior was quite surprise for me. I had no idea how much activity could be found in the middle of the night. Perhaps the most surprising of all was finding two scantily dressed European women in the airport baggage claim. Having seen similar attire before, I was just surprised to see this display in a modestly dressed Islamic country. Surely, they knew where they were and understood local customs.
It was an interesting flight to say the least, and a fast and furious introduction to he middle east. However, it was the longest 15 minute flight of my life.
Or, Perhaps it was all just a dream!