When I last left Dubai in mid-October of 2006, I honestly didn't think that it would be another year and a half before I'd find myself back here again. But that's the way things worked out, as the assignment I was supposed to have in the spring of last year disappeared and the job I was scheduled to work on last fall was delayed until now.
But finally I'm back, 17.5 months later, and although I've been here for less than 24 hours I'm slowly discovering that things really haven't changed too much. Some of the projects that were under construction the last time I was here have been completed, but the city's skyline is still dominated by cranes and ubiquitous road construction projects still make travel by car an adventure. The traffic situation here, needless to say, gives a whole new meaning to the term "gridlock;" my company's office here is understandably swamped with road and transit projects.
Unfortunately, the nonstop Emirates flight from Houston was unavailable by the time travel arrangements were made for me late last week, but the alternative itinerary I ended up with - Delta, through Atlanta - didn't turn out to be too bad. I flew to Atlanta from Hobby Airport, which is actually more convenient from where I live, the layover at Hartsfield Airport was short (and would have been shorter if it weren't for a weather delay), and the flight from Atlanta to Dubai was, well, about the best I could hope for given that it was a 14-hour flight, in coach, and in the middle seat. The the fact that Delta is a SkyTeam member, which allowed me to earn miles on my Continental OnePass account, didn't hurt either. I would still like fly Emirates for future travels - their seats are more comfortable (footrests really make a difference) and nothing beats a nonstop flight - but I think Delta did a good job.
(If you've ever wondered what flight crews do after working a fourteen-hour trans-continental flight, I discovered the answer last night as I waited at baggage claim and watched my flight's crew - pilots, flight attendants and all - attack the booze selection at Dubai Duty Free's arrivals store: they par-tay!)
The hotel I'm staying in this time around is decent - not the best I've stayed in during my travels here but certainly not the worst - and is not too far from my office. So far, the only problem I've had with it is the dense lady at the hotel's check-in booth at the airport: while they had my name in the reservations computer, whomever entered my information put me under the wrong company and so the lady at the airport initially wouldn't check me in and dispatch a courtesy shuttle because she wasn't convinced I was the right person. Fortunately, I had a printed copy of my hotel reservation with me that I showed her. This only confused her further, of course, so she faxed it to the hotel and called to ask what she should do. After about five minutes of conversation, and clearly petrified that she'd make an unforgivable error if she checked in the wrong person, she finally agreed to send me to the hotel and let me check in there. Fortunately, the receptionist at the hotel didn't have the same qualms about my identity that the lady at the airport did.
Hopefully I'll get a chance to get out, see some sights, and post some pictures in the next few days. I'm still a bit jetlagged right now, however, so it's probably going to be an early night for me tonight.