Sorry for the delay in posts. Here’s a really long one to make up for it. As some of you may know things have been a little difficult. Here is a synopsis of the events in the last 24 hours. This is a true story!
Friday April 13th
Yesterday at 11am before our flight, we went to Al ain to visit a former patient and their family. We were concerned about the time constraints as we didn’t want to miss our flight back as Dave’s flight was scheduled to leave a at midnight (which left us just enough time to finish season 2 of Downton Abbey). The family made us a huge authentic Saudi lunch that had to be cut short because of time.
2:30pm An hour before scheduled check-in, the team leaves and books it to the airport. Amber points out to us that it is Friday the 13th and who knows what will happen which Andrea replied, “Oh nothing is going to happen. I’m not superstitious.” We were all disappointed that we had such a short time in Dubai and hoped that some day we would return. Sandy says, “I will probably never come back here again.” “Never says never” said Andrea. We make it to check in 3 minutes before the cut-off. Our group leader dropped us off as she was taking a different flight. “See you in Riyadh and please wait for me at customs,” she said.
Jen & Andrea were disappointed that we didn’t have time to officially peruse the duty free and see the Burj Kalifa so they stocked up at the gift shop and caught the last tram to the plane as the rest of the team had already boarded and were worried that they were not going to make it.
4pm: Plane is boarded and there is a delay because of loading the carry-ons. Little did we know that this precious time would make a huge difference in our day.
6pm: A sandstorm is happening and our plane circles the airport. Two attempts were made at landing. The first time the flight crew prepared for descent and the second time the landing gear came out. We descended to about 1000 feet and suddenly the plane veered back up. There was no visibility in the orange dust. Amber has asthma attack from perfume sprayed form the ladies ahead of her. Mohammed (Amber’s neighbor) runs to the bathroom and ends up laying down in the galley sick. A flight attendant runs up and asks for seat cushion. We think we’re going down and need life jackets (she really only needed it for Mohammed). Nobody wants to admit it, but we are all thinking we are going to die. We are then notified that plane is rerouting to Doha because we wouldn’t have enough fuel to attempt another landing.
7pm As we were descending, there was very bad turbulence and lightning.( We were thankful for clean drawers…little did we know we would be wearing them the next day! )Landed In Doha with applause and waited for instructions.
8pm Paramedics arrive for Mohammed. Announcement “We have two situations. One man is sick and the paramedics are working on him. The second situation is that we have two ladies trying to get off the plane.” Jen requested water for us, but the attendants could not reach them because a man was praying in the galley.
8:30pm They offer people to get off the plane and rebook on a different flight at their own expense after the pilot pleaded overhead that people should stay onboard and that safety was number one and we should look at the Lufthansa airplane to our left going back to Riyadh.
9pm Airport police board the plane and yelling ensues with passengers. It is translated to us that someone had smoked in the bathroom and he was going to be fined. The passengers disagreed and there was mutiny.
9:30pm Announcement that an additional hour will be needed to sort through the baggage of the departed passengers. More people decide to get off the plane to fly to Dubai.
10pm A security check of all carry-on baggage starts. All overhead bins were opened and the flight attendants had to verify owners of every single bag. The passengers in front of us all had multiple bags per person which was the main reason for our initial delay.
10:45pm We finally take off and just have to worry about landing in Riyadh. We are told that if we still cannot land in Riyadh, we will fly back to Dubai. We discuss how we are going to get Dave’s luggage to the airport so he can run to his next flight home. Another fight breaks out this time with two ladies fighting about food with the flight attendant.
11:20pm We land in Riyadh and breathe a sigh of relief because we made it safely back.
11:40pm We are still waiting in the plane and Dave’s hope of going home are fading fast. Then an announcement comes overhead saying that we cannot use this gate because it is on the wrong side of the plane and we need to wait for a tow to bring us out. It seemed like this nightmare isn’t going to end.
12:30am We wave goodbye to Dave’s plane that takes off without him. Dave is ok with this because he wants to just get a good night’s sleep and shower back.
1am We get off the plane and head to customs. We were not accustomed to this as we were greeted by Embassy officials to the VIP Prince lounge with coffee. Andrea and Jen get sent to the customs office first and the others follow. We all sit down in the customs office with a German man who is also being detained and the official keeps saying, “No problem No problem.” We were so thirsty from not having food for the last hours that we contemplated drinking the already opened bottle of water that had been sitting on his table. Turns out that our visas are a single-visit and that they cannot allow us back in the country. We made calls to our group coordinator but she tells us she will deal with it in the morning. Dave suggests that we all just fly home and we all wanted to at this point, but we were told that Children’s could be sued if we did. We told her that we only have 5 minutes to decide whether or not to go back on a plane to Dubai and she said she couldn’t do anything about it so we would just have to go back. We had a name of our sponsor, but nobody to call to vouch for us. “We are saving your babies! We have to work at 7am tomorrow” says Sandy.
They escorted us to the gate and a guy in a suit (we think a PR guy) asked us where our group leader was and why they aren’t coming with money “to make this go away.” We were told we would get our passports back on the flight. Jen said, “I am not going anywhere without my passport,” and then stated that she needed a hug, to which Dave and Amber quickly obliged. The PR guy then suggested we go to Dubai and get a good nights sleep. We were then granted permission to go to the bathroom, but shortly after were told they were holding the plane for us and we needed to board NOW.
The pilot (same pilot that flew our first plane) comes out to the gate looking exhausted said he needed to take off immediately or else he would time out. We run onboard as the flight crew ask us what happened. “Didn’t you get enough of the last flight?” joked one attendant. We are all on the verge of tears as we explain why we weren’t let into Saudi. There are only 23 people on the plane because this flight should’ve left at 6pm. Dave pleaded with the flight attendant to buy the duty-free items for his grandkids that didn’t get purchased on the last flight, but she laughed and said, “No, I don’t think so.” And walked away. The rest of the flight went smoothly at 41,000feet at 600mph across the Arabian Sea. We raided their food cart as we were starving. As we started descending, Sandy and Andrea were startled by more yelling that started in back of them which we’ve come to realize is just their form of communication.
4am: We de-board and get through customs without issues (although we were worried and kept thinking of what ifs) Amber is missing and we find her buying a large bottle of wine. Dr. Brasel tried to get money from an ATM that happened to be from the Bank of Iran. We joked that guns would come out and he would be executed. Then his card actually got rejected.
5am: We found the nearest hotel and as we are checking in, we are told we must wait until 6am to avoid paying an additional day charge. So we wait deliriously in the hotel lobby until that time.
6am: We finally get to our rooms. Dave goes to bed, but woke abruptly at 8am to see if he could get on the internet (which is not working) to get a ticket home. Then he realized he needed to get an adaptor to charge his laptop. 25 durhams later, he came back and charged his laptop.
8:30am Desperately trying to book a flight back to the U.S. the internet does not work and Dave goes down to the business center to attempt. It still doesn’t work in the business center and he calls the IT department.
9:30am Dave goes to bed. The desk calls to tell him the internet works now.
9:45am Phone rings and wakes Dave up as he thinks he has missed Andrew’s call, not realizing it is 12:45am in the U.S.
10am: Someone knocks on the door was to see if there is any laundry to bring down
10:30am: Another guy knocks on Dave’s door to see if he can clean his room.
12:30pm: The girls are knocking on the door ready to go eat breakfast.
1pm: A Caribou coffee is found and we go insane connecting to the internet and making sure that all our family knew about our situation as word spread via Facebook that we were back in Dubai.
The rest of today was spent at the Dubai mall. We had a great lunch next to the Burj Kalifah and discussed in disbelief the situation we are in and laughed at how we can say we have been deported and how crazy unbelievable the last day has been. We now have new outfits, socks, underwear, migraine medication, contact solution, razors, carry-on luggage, and gifts for grandchildren. And the money we took out from the ATM this morning is depleted.
We thought it would be a great idea to end the night with drinks at the hotel bar. While walking into the bar it was completely obvious that we were the only females in the bar not “working.” Dave pointed out that two of them were “females” and to end the night we had a lovely naked man drying himself off with a towel and staring at us from his room overlooking the patio we were seated at. You just can’t make this stuff up.
Tomorrow we are supposed to head to the Saudi Embassy to get our visas stamped and fly back on Monday. We will see what the next day brings as our group tends to have many unexpected adventures…