This has been an interesting stay in the United Arab Emirates. On Friday we completed a course in Al Ain, which is in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and lies about ninety minutes by car due east of Dubai, close to the boarder with the Sultanate of Oman.
Al Ain is very different from the hustle and bustle of hectic Dubai. The entire region is much greener, it is less densely populated and the sand dunes have a spectacular red hue that the sand is the area around Dubai does not have. Al Ain is not really a tourist destination, mainly due to the fact that it is nowhere near the sea and there are not really that many things to do.
In Al Ain I stayed at the Hilton. It is not a bad place to stay, although it is somewhat disconcerting how empty the place is. The hotel also functions as the city’s local recreational facility, and thus boasts a fully equipped gym and a lap pool of 25 metres.
On Saturday morning, my colleague – the valiant and intrepid M. – and I decide to head for Dubai. Our flight will be leaving from Dubai on Sunday morning at 10h00. Originally we had planned to stay in Al Ain until Sunday and leave the hotel at around 05h30 in the morning to be at the airport with enough time to spare to bring back the car. But then the course participants told us all sorts of stories about the horrific traffic in the Dubai area, until eventually we decided to spend our last night a bit closer to Dubai airport.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport: Rented car.
Journey time: 30 minutes.
First we need to fill the tank before we return the car. We pay AED75 for 43 litres, which is roughly CHF20. Just in case you were wondering, in Switzerland you would have to pay something to the tune of CHF68 for the same amount of petrol…
The journey to the airport is pleasant enough. The traffic is still light, but I suspect it will be picking up shortly. We drop off the rented car at Parking A2, on the departures level opposite the terminal.
Location: Oman Air operates out of Terminal 1 at Dubai airport, which is the facility most carriers use. Terminal 2 is used by Flydubai and a few others.
Counters: The Oman Air counters are located on row E. There are four Economy Class counters and two Business Class counters.
Check-in for all flights opens three hours before departure, which means we are still a few minutes early, thanks to the expert driving skills of the valiant M (Let me just say it was one of those moments when you see your entire life flashing by….).
At 07h00 sharp two young ladies appear to start check-in for the flight. I am quickly issued my boarding passes and an invitation to the Gulf Air lounge. My suitcase has been tagged all the way to Zürich.
Location: Just past gate C22.
Type of Lounge: Gulf Air lounge.
Facilities: Toilets and showers in the lounge.
Internet: Free wifi available in the lounge. The password is signposted throughout the lounge.
Dubai airport uses a closed gate system. Subsequently, my boarding pass states that boarding for the flight will begin at 09h00, one hour before departure. But in actual fact, 09h00 is just the time the gate opens.
CABIN & SEAT
Configuration: 2 x 2.
Pitch: 40 inches.
Width: 21 inches.
Audio and Video: Not available.
Seat: There are twelve seats on three rows in Business Class on the Boeing B 737-700. It is nice to travel on a narrow-body with a dedicated Business Class cabin and seat, even if the flight time from Dubai to Muscat is only a short forty minutes.
The seats are in leather, or probably plastic that looks and feels like leather. Given the hot temperatures in this part of the world, this is not necessarily the best idea, seeing as leather does not really ‘breathe’ and has a tendency to leave you hot and sticky.
There are two cabin crew working the Business Class cabin today. Their manner is what I would call business friendly. But in a way, you cannot really blame them for that. With a flight time of only 45 minutes, they are all too busy trying to serve a full cabin of twelve passengers in time.
It is very hazy here in Dubai today. In fact, the visibility already started deteriorating the previous evening. As a result, there is a bit of a queue for departure and we are number nine in line. It is really interesting to see how ATC sets up the aircraft for departure in Dubai. Aircraft are lined up simultaneously on four taxiways in parallel on both sides of the active runway.
Eventually, after waiting in queue for about twenty minutes, we take-off in an easterly direction with a delay of one hour.
- A selection of water and juices. I have the lemon and mint juice, which is very refreshing.
- Once the doors close, the crew pass through the cabin offering fresh dates and Arabic coffee.
- There is a choice of hot or cold towels. Both of which are very lightly scented.
- There is a choice of two main dishes.
- Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
- Mixed salad with feta, cucumber and bell peppers.
- Tortellini filled with meat on a cheese sauce with tomatoes, broccoli and pumpkin.
- Cheesecake for dessert.
The meal is very tasty. More than anything though, I am amazed that Oman Air not only provide a choice of main course on a sector of only 45 minutes, but that they also offer a hot meal as one of the choices!
Halfway into demolishing the cheesecake, the seatbelt sign goes on again and the pilots informs us that we have started out initial descent into Muscat.
The weather in Muscat is pretty much the same as in Dubai. It is a balmy 25 degrees Celsius with low visibility due to the haze. In Muscat, the new terminal infrastructure is quickly taking shape. The construction of the terminal appears to be finished, it is now only a question of putting in the fittings. We land on the newly built runway, which runs in parallel to the existing one but on the other side of the newly built apron. Out taxi time to the old apron, which is still in use is about 5 minutes.
TRANSFER IN MUSCAT
In Muscat there are no air bridges, so all passengers have to be transported to the terminal by bus. There is a dedicated shuttle bus for Business Class passengers only. I always find it a tad uncomfortable on Oman Air to watch one of the flight attendants rush to block the Economy Class passengers from disembarking before all the Business Class passengers have left the aircraft.