I’m on my way to Ethiopia, with an overnight stopover in Dubai. I was dreading this visit; the last time I had to fly Emirates with my three year old twin babies, my airport experience was nothing short of a nightmare.
It was two months after I met my daughters, and we were flying home to Canada for the first time. As most outgoing flights leave Addis Ababa late at night, I had two very sleepy toddlers on the medium haul flight to Dubai. The girls both slept the whole way, but for the first and last time, one of my daughters wet her herself on the plane. I didn’t realize until I picked her up to leave the plane for our overnight in Dubai.
I vividly remember hauling two comatosed toddlers, their little puppy backpacks and my carry-on down the ramp and onto the bus. My arms were overflowing. I had a kid in each arm, a backpack in each hand, and a carry-on backpack strapped to me. It was way too much for me to handle. I struggled to get onto the he bus, and had to beg for someone to let me have a seat. The girls refused to wake up; after all, it was the middle of the night.
After we got off the bus, I hauled them into the terminal. There were Emirates employees standing around, but none of the white robed men would help me get my girls and luggage further. No baggage carts, nothing. The walk seemed interminable. We reached passport control and were told to go to another station to buy a transit visa. So I hauled my wet, sweating and sleeping bundles there. They only took cash. Then to a bank machine. Then to the visa station. Then back to the passport station, all the while trying not to drop the kids and literally kicking my bags in front of me.
Finally through the passport control, I walked to the station to wait for the hotel transfer bus. All this while, even when I asked, not one airport employee would help me. What a nightmare. I was crying, and no one wanted to help. We waited for 45 minutes in those seats, not knowing when the hotel bus was coming. Finally at the bus, two French ladies graciously hoisted my bags in and carried them into the hotel for me. But when I finally got the girls into the hotel room (where of course, they woke up and started running around,) I broke down and just bawled. I have never been any place less child friendly, to this day. After I washed the girls, fed them some room service and rested for a couple of hours, we left Dubai as quickly as we could.
So it was with trepidation that I got off the plane today, onto the airport terminal bus. I’ve been avoiding flying Emirates for years, because of that horrid first experience.
There were quite a few kids on the terminal bus. It gave me flashbacks, but I took it as a positive sign. Then as soon as we got out of the bus to the terminal, there was… Hold onto your hats… A stroller rack, full of complementary strollers. I would have traded a kidney for a stroller six years ago, and here was a whole rack of them.
Then in the terminal, there was a, gasp! Baby changing station! I couldn’t believe it.
And finally, the passport control was much easier, with no visa needed. Now, we might have needed it last time because the girls were traveling on Ethiopian passports. But this time, with only my Canadian passport to process, it took one minute. And next to me was a female passport control officer. What I would have done to have an understanding and/or female passport officer last time!
I walked out to the bus station for the hotel shuttle, and waited three minutes. The bus arrived, and we got off at the hotel ten minutes later. There were all sorts of kids on the bus, and I smiled for the first time in Dubai, as a little Afghan toddler sitting next to me played with my carry-on bag.
And where should I find myself, but in the exact same hotel that we were in six years ago. I kid you not. After supper, I wondered outside and found a playground with the huge long, and an enormous pool with a fenced off waiting area for children.
The sum of this story is that Dubai has changed. It was infinitely more family friendly this visit than it was six years ago. After avoiding Emirates for years, I would now definitely fly through with my nine year old daughters. (But maybe not with sleeping, wet-bummed twin toddlers and their puppy backpacks…)