In the past 24 hours I have set foot on three different countries. Sunday, May 15, I kissed my family good-bye as my aunt and I stepped into Miami International Airport to head out on a, as cliché as it may sound, once-in-a-lifetime journey. Although my study abroad program in Jordan begins May 30, my aunt and I are traveling throughout the United Arab Emirates and Israel site seeing and visiting friends before my program.
Here’s a brief recap of my journey half-way across the globe:
Through my time at UF I am happy to say I have crossed paths with many awesome people from all over the world. It is for that reason I am always on the lookout for a familiar face. When I think I see someone I know, oftentimes, I will attempt to “discreetly” call out the suspected individual’s name to see if I get a reaction or even a flicker of recognition. Sometimes it works, but majority of the time I look like some crazy lady yelling out random names at people. Today was my lucky day. While in the TSA line at MIA I bellowed my potential friend detection call, and sure enough I hooked a fellow Gator who was one of my Arabic classmates. Not only did we happen to choose to fly out of the same airport, on the same day, on the same flight at the same time… we also wind up sitting right next to each other. This experience thought me two things: a neck pillow is more comfortable when you share it with someone and that I should play the lotto with this kind of luck.
Tony and I excited over being travel buddies and all of the cool free stuff in the little bag of wonders left on our seats with a pillow, blanket and headphones by the Qatar Airways fairies to enjoy the 14-hour-long flight to Doha, Qatar.
At around 5:45 p.m. local time and 10:45 a.m. we finally landed in Doha and had a few hours of layover time to pass, which wasn’t too grueling of a task considering that this airport is a traveler’s Disney World. It had Wi-Fi, iMac stations for travelers to use, plenty of name brand duty-free stores, a gym and even a quiet section with extra comfy chairs for people to sleep in to pass the time. #WIN
The airport SnapChat selfie that launched a thousand responses… okay maybe more like 20 😛
After a 45-minute flight we finally reached Dubai at around 10:45 p.m. local time. Everyone we have encountered on our journey has seemingly gone out of his or her way to help us. From the flight attendants, to bus drivers, airport staff and the hotel staff. The people who really take the prize for hospitality is the staff at the Hardrock Café of Dubai. My aunt, an experience traveler, has traveled to dozens of Hardrock Cafés throughout the world and has a tradition that she must always go to the Hardrock on the first day/night she arrives in a new city to buy pins and mugs to add to her collection. Hardrock Café in Dubai closes at 2 a.m. We weren’t able to leave the hotel until 12:45 a.m. and it was about a 15-minute taxi ride. This was a woman on a mission. We got there at 1 a.m. and were devastated to find out that the kitchen closed 15 minutes before, and we were the only souls in the entire establishment other than staff. After explaining to the staff that we just touched down from Miami and my aunt’s tradition, they were kind enough to allow us to order food, dine in and frolic throughout the huge restaurant taking photos at our leisure.
It was a VIP experience that was nothing short of amazing. We returned to our apartment-style room, which was upgraded for free by the receptionist (shout out to my girl Hnin), with fully bellies, a pleasant welcome to the city and most importantly with a mission accomplished. ***Cue the Mission Impossible music***