Dubai Airport

March 19, 2011

I have seen some in my time but I think this one is a favourite. Airports that is. Not because it glitters (Changi does a better job of that) but because it is such a melting pot.  It gives true meaning to the word “exotic”. Two lads are trilling with excitement in the coffee shop where I am enjoying a latte. They are from India and are planning a canoe trip in Kazakhstan.  

A holy man from India, with his sheets tucked up around his knees exits the toilet cubicle clutching a laptop. Families with skin as black as black camp on the floor and wait for their connection. They are the most patient travellers. And I have no idea where they are from. Germans bustle along as Germans always seem to do. Some Lebanese shout to their friends, alerting them to gates closing for Beirut.  To get to this coffee spot I walked past a small booth with someone giving Spanish lessons. (yes Ellen I brought my Spanish vocab notes with me)  I just learned what Spanish for “shower” is – probably handy if you have been cooped up in a flight for 15 hours. And have landed in a Spanish airport.  

Australians drawl past with a twang I don’t really hear until I am out of the country.  Little flocks of women drift along, heads covered in this or that Islamic headdress requirement.  An Italian lady stands looking helpless as her toddler sheiks in tantrum, alternating between lying on the floor in front of a large Indian family  (trying to delicately negotiate their way past and look away at the same time) or clutching her mother’s ankle. In the end the Roman in her explodes and she picks the kid up and carts it off under her arm.  Islamic clerics line up at MacDonalds, looking crisp and fresh in their white garb. Filipinos carrying those ubiquitous laundry bags mill through, looking as if they have done this routine before. Which they probably have – on their way back to servile employment somewhere in the Middle East, sending money home and otherwise trying to do things better for themselves or their kids. They tend not to be the shoppers that fill the duty free traps in this place.  That tends to be the wealthy Caucasian or north Asian.

Is there a predominance of this age or that age? Not really. Ancients shuffle along with the toddlers, young backpackers mix with middle age families.  Older businessmen stride though a tide of wandering Koreans, younger twenty somethings on a tour. So many stories here. I think of the single story gleaned yesterday from the taxi driver and wonder at how many people are captured in this place as we cross paths from all corners of the globe. How magical it would be to freeze this moment (we don’t want any connections missed now do we), stretch time and find out from each other how it is we are in this place together. What stories lie behind the presence of us all here today? What adventures, opportunities, dreams, tragedies and hopes are driving us all into this steel shed, never to cross paths ever again.  I am at Gate 225, about to jump to Nairobi.  You readers can rub shoulders with me there next. (Abdullah the Hutt is nowhere to be seen – he dropped his boarding pass and I saw he was headed to Beirut.).


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