Back from two weeks abroad. In retrospect, it was whirlwind, but there was so much we wanted to see. It was worth getting worn out for!

We flew Emirates airline because of its reputation for service and comfort. Wow. The aircraft was an A-380 and it held almost 500 passengers. Most of them were en route through Dubai to India. Mucho hand luggage, mucho checked luggage. I’m always amazed that an aircraft can heave itself into the air every time.

As we got ready to board, there were 20 wheelchair folks ahead of us. About 10% of the passengers were under the age of 6, which means that we had a chorus of shrieking toddlers who started up even before the seat belt sign had come on. I’ll tell you, if the crew had been selling noise cancelling headphones, there would have been a stampede. I’ll bet there were no squalling brats upstairs beyond the thick velvet rope blocking the hoi polloi from venturing into first class territory.

The flight crew – all 18 of them, were truly service oriented, never flustered, always smiling. Twelve languages (Pushtun, Urdu, Rumanian, Arabic, Swedish, Russian, Portuguese, French) and as many nationalities. Food and beverage services seemed to be non-stop, although they did go easy on pushing the alcohol. Five hundred movies, news, sports, music – the selection was almost overwhelming. I’m not a big movie-goer (except for Pixar stuff with the grandchildren) so it took me a while to find a couple of films that didn’t make me want to poke my eyes out. Even more fascinating was tracking our progress from cameras located on the tail and under the belly of the aircraft. The mood lighting was a nice touch. I suppose the pinky blue was supposed to be soothing.

The older gentleman beside me seemed annoyed to be seated beside a woman. Not sure why. I don’t fidget, I keep my arms within the confines of my space, I don’t make odd sounds with my mouth. I had to laugh at his haughtiness, though – dude was sporting a pink turban and a peach coloured shirt, accessorized with a couple of gold bracelets. Whenever I awoke from my doze, he was staring at the dark monitor in front of his seat. Meditating, perhaps?

Dubai airport is beyond massive – all white and soaring and glittery. The best that unlimited oil money can buy. People lifters instead of elevators, transporting 50 passengers at once from one level to the next. Escalators so long they disappear into the distance. We had to take a 5 minute train ride from the arrivals area to passport control, where we were greeted by spiffy looking, untalkative agents clad in blinding white gandurah or tawb and matching keffiyeh (headscarves, some tucked rakishly back from the face. We found out that some men change 3 or 4 times a day, to maintain the illusion that they never lift a finger to get soiled by work.

Another bout of cardio to retrieve our luggage, then off to find our limo driver. Once outside the frigid confines of the air terminal, we were hit by a blast of desert heat. I loved it. The curb was lined with idling Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Jaguars, Range Rovers and a few Ferraris. All the latest models, mostly in white, bristling with accessories. We realized that we’d been allocated a low-end vehicle – a Lexus sedan. Snazzy as it was, the trunk was small and one of Hub’s suitcases rode into town in the passenger seat. Welcome to the UAE.