Since I had managed to go the entire flight without using the bathrooms (mostly because I was asleep through half of it) I wanted to find a bathroom. But no! We were met by ADEC (Abu Dhabi Education Council) at the end of the jetway. I had also been hoping that I would be able to change my shirt before I met ADEC, but since the airline made me check my carry on and they met us at the end of the jet way, I had to meet them in the stinky shirt that I had been wearing for 24 hours. Eeew. However, there were 50 or so people in our group off that flight, so nobody batted an eyelash.
They handed out our visas right there. Visas in hand, they took us to Immigration, but instead of getting in line, they took us to another little room where they did retina scans of both eyes. The guy doing the scans was very cheery, teasing us to hurry up, hurry up and smiling. Then we went through Immigration. The woman directing us sent me into a line so I was standing there, behind the yellow line, staring into space when I hear a guy saying, “come here, over here!” Very cheery. So I jumped lines and went through him. After Immigration we had our stuff x-rayed again and we were lined up to go downstairs and claim our bags.
The bags were already off the carousel and lined up on the floor. Chaos ensued.
Lucky for us, baggage carts were free so we piled all our stuff up. With only 1 suitcase and 1 carry on, I had packed about the lightest. One lady had 3 large hard cases and a carry on. The carry on kept falling off her cart and we had to stop and rearrange her stuff twice in the first 50 feet. We ended up at the back of the troop as we headed outside. On the way out of the official part of the airport, we were handed roses. Roses! And what was right outside the official area? A Starbucks. Quelle surprise.
Through the shopping area of the airport we were escorted to the parking lot. As we stepped through the door I think every one of us wilted. The air was like breathing soup, cream based, it was so hot and thick. A few Saudi men were standing along the wall there and they laughed (in keeping with the tradition of everyone being very cheerful) and said “Welcome to Abu Dhabi!” We rolled are stuff down to the lot and were met by guys who took our carts and loaded everything onto a couple of trucks while we climbed onto two buses. By this time it was pitch dark so there wasn’t a lot to see on the way to the hotel. They brought us around to the VIP entrance of the hotel where a small army of bell hops and desk clerks met us. Inside the door, they handed us glasses of juice. I think it was mango, but it tasted faintly of cinnamon though there was no grittiness. I also saw a man holding a silver tray of towels. I groaned inwardly thinking they were hot towels and the very last thing I wanted was a hot towel. The humidity was so high that they were having to mop constantly because as soon as the outside air came into contact with the cooled granite it formed puddles. The man with the towels thrust one at me so I took it and it turned out to be cool and rose scented. Then they gave us envelopes with our room keys and a welcome letter telling us where our free breakfast was. We do not have free WiFi and what’s up with that? Anyplace this pricey really should pony up with free WiFi too, but I digress.
The bags were lined up outside and we were given tags to attach to our bags so the bellboys could bring them up. I pity the bell boys. They are getting a work out and I don’t think everyone was savvy about tipping. I had to give US dollars because I didn’t have small dirhams.
Naturally, when I went up to my room, I couldn’t get my keys to work. Either of them. I stood in the hall with my head pressed to the door for a few seconds before I summoned the energy to go back down and get the keys fixed.
Finally in my room, I did a little exploring, flipped on CNN, nearly couldn’t figure out the toilet and fell into bed, guzzling the two complimentary bottles of water the hotel left me.