I was once in Dubai with a bunch of Swedes that I’d never met before. We were working as cabin crew and this was circa 2008. Some of the flight attendants and stewards knew each other from before and paired up immediately. The rest of us were used to being thrown together with a random mix of colleagues and thought nothing of it.
On arrival, an airport taxi van dropped us off at the hotel that our crew control had booked for us. As usual, the captain checked the whole group in, while we waited politely a bit further away. After we had been assigned our rooms and our passports returned, the pilots were quick to leave. The loudest member of the cabin crew suggested that we all go to one of the malls together for lunch, before we each go our separate ways. He knew of a good shawarma place. The rendez-vous was set at 10 minutes from that moment – be down at the lobby, or be left behind.
This was quite ordinary. You’d drop off your stuff in your room, quickly change, grab your purse and leave your room before you even had time to look out the window. Everyone was tired and speediness kept you awake. There were things to do, people! Shopping or sunbathing by the hotel pool, basically. Usually food was involved. If you ever see a mish-mashed group of people of different ages and with varying degrees of tan lines and wrinkles sitting around several tables, eating something totally decadent in a hurried manner, all the while staring at their watches, it’s probably an airline crew. Just so you know. (And yes, the dry cabin air gives you wrinkles prematurely!)
At the mall, the group’s self-proclaimed leader – a guy who’d buddied up with the purser lady, too cool for the rest of us – again suggested we all split up and meet at some food court on the top floor in half an hour. Lunch was going to be quick, too, so you should be there on time if you wanted to catch the shared taxi back to the hotel. Otherwise, you could take your own taxi and pay for it by yourself.
I separated from the group and walked around the mall, which was ridiculously big. Actually, it was just one wing of the mall and, like the Louvre, you would never have time to see it all. But there was nothing to interest me much. Some shops were selling clothes with materials and designs that looked exotic to me, very far from the European (or Western) fashion I was used to seeing. Then there were shops like Zara and Bershka, not so exotic. Suddenly, I realized it was already time to go to the food court, and, it being my first time at that mall, I had to find it first.
Oh well, I thought, if I’m late and everyone’s already gone, I’ll just have a snack and then go back to the hotel. No problem. – Wait a minute. Go back to the hotel… hmm. Which hotel was that again?
My heart skipped a beat as I realized that I didn’t know which hotel I was staying at! Oh my gosh! I took out my key card: it was blank white, no clues there. I looked at my roster, printed on a piece of paper: no hotel information there, either. And I didn’t even steal a pen!
I had just left all of my belongings in a hotel room in Dubai, of all places, and I didn’t know where that hotel room was!
In retrospect, I probably could have called the crew office in Sweden, but what time was it there anyway, and did my ancient cell phone back then even work in the UAE? I can’t remember. I do remember that this realization made me hurry up!
When I finally found the right floor and the right corner of the food court and saw some of the other crew members there, I let out a sigh of relief. Some of them had already left, but some were still there.
And then I had the best shawarma of my life. So far.
What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made while traveling?
The photos are from a different trip to Dubai – solo and circa 2005, please excuse the quality!