So I’m back in the decompression zone of Dubai – the never never land of the adult. It seemed I had only just finally come to terms with the fact I was back in Afghanistan, after so many years of dreaming of being there, and then I was leaving again.

Yesterday I spent a morning crushing the results of my shopping trips into my case, and wondering how it is that even the stuff you bring always seems to grow in size while you’re away, phoning and texting people to say goodbye, and shaking hands and, in private, hugging my good friends and promising to be back before another seven years elapsed, insh’allah.

And then I was in a car driving through those vibrant streets, snapping photos of everything, because now I don’t know when I will be back again, on the way to airport.

Getting out of the country was possibly harder than getting in.

We had to stop the car to be searched and scan the luggage at the start of the road to the airport. As I hefted my case onto the waist-height scanner, the guard was so busy watching me he totally missed watching the screen as my bag went through the x-ray. He only looked back at the screen when I asked him “sais?”, “Okay?” , and of course by then it had gone through. Then I had to be searched by one of the women guards, whose idea of a body search does not exclude any areas!

Next, we were allowed to drive into the airport car park, where we went through the whole process again. Then I was on my own, wheeling my luggage through the midday heat for the 10 minute walk to the airport building, past another three guards.

Once inside, another scan and search and then another long wait to go back through immigration, to have my exit visa stamped. And then finally one more scan of the luggage and we were allowed to sit in the departures lounge.

Eventually we were on the plane and then everything settled into the pattern of retracing your steps. The flight seemed to take ages – I read an entire novel – and then we walking into the warm soup of the Dubai dusk and joining the endless lines at immigration. Dubai airport is like a people factory – but as there is free wi-fi  I spent the time in the queue checking my email, so the 30 minutes passed fairly quickly for me. But we did seem to be moving very slowly and eventually a cultured Scottish voice called down from behind me to the Arab guys on the desk, complaining about the wait.

There then ensued a argument – “Why have we been waiting so long?” “This is not your business!” “It IS my business, we have paid to come here to Dubai”.

Behind me, a tall guy with an American accent sighed and said, “I don’t think he has helped at all. I think now they are going to slow down deliberately.”

We got chatting and it transpired we were both passing through Dubai – but he was on a flight out to Iraq that night. He didn’t say to do what, but he said he didn’t know when he was coming back. And he was hoping to get into Dubai before he left. “Do you have friends here?” I asked. “Actually my wife is here,” he said. “Oh well you should go to the front of the queue!” I replied. “Yeah,” he said, “I’m having sex tonight!”

We laughed as he explained how he literally had two hours to get to see his wife, do the deed and get back to the airport. I really felt for him. Despite my sadness at leaving Afghanistan, at least I was on my way home to see Mutley. Last I saw he was chatting to the guy at the desk. I hope he made it.

« »