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A Night At The Transit Zone Hotel, Dubai Style

Long layover. Must sleep. Somehow.

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TRANSIT ZONE, Dubai- On the flight over from Sofia it hit me: I’m not going to get any sleep tonight. I have a ten hour layover in Dubai and Dubai airport sucks. Or at least the Fly Dubai part of it.

I will rephrase that. The airport doesn’t really suck — it’s actually a pretty standard steel warehouse that has a row of doors on one side and a couple of hallways leading into it on the other. It’s an airport terminal like in the old days — standard still fare for budget air travel.

My flights from Sofia to Muscat and back only cost like $400. I can’t complain about anything.

The problem is that it’s packed full of people — like, they’re spewing out the sides of the place. The interesting thing is that these are people who are used to being in crowded places. There are crowded cultures and un-crowded cultures. People from crowded cultures tend to not value or respect personal space — including that of complete strangers. They spread themselves out all over the place, not making room for others, cramming people in or butting people out. They step right in front of you. Start doing something that you’re already doing. Try to occupy the space that you’re already occupying. This is normal for them and, apparently, it doesn’t piss them off.

It seems as if crowded cultures kind of just pretend that other people simply are not there — or at least that’s how they often act. When I was at the drinking fountain filling up my bottle a guy started reaching around me and piling up his bottles on top of fountain as though I didn’t exist. It wasn’t rude. It was just different than how people from un-crowded cultures tend to act.

I’m not sure if this element of culture is counter-intuitive or exactly what we should expect. Cultures who are not used to crowded spaces tend to give each other a lot of space, there are very clear boundaries, and people tend to be respectful and thoughtful towards others. Un-crowded cultures are good at being crowded. It’s the cultures where crowds are a normal part of life who suck at it.

I got a coffee at McDonald’s for half the price as the one from the fancy cafe. I then went into the cafe, sat down, and drank it. I’m not paying $6 for a cup of coffee and I’m not going to sit in the derelict McDonald’s seating area either when I can just walk into the nice cafe and grab an open table.

With McDonald’s coffee you always know what you’re getting anywhere in the world and, honestly, 70% of the time it’s better than that of the cafe.

We recently had this discussion in the comments of another blog post.

I paid $12.99 for a refrigerated chicken and avocado wrap. I had to eat something. But if the me from five years ago saw the me of today paying such an extortionate price for airport food he would have punched me in the face.

Yes, I believe the first time I flew through Dubai I refused to pay that much money and went hungry. If the me of today went back and looked at the me of five years ago he would have called him a dummy.

Uniforms are polite.

Uniforms are a way for people to communicate who they are, where they’re from, and what role they are currently serving.

Uniforms makes things easy for everybody. They are like giant road signs that say “This dude wants to communicate that this is who he is and how you should treat him.”

I’m looking at the people in the Dubai airport now. There are groups in brown robes, groups in white robes, groups wearing two piece baggy outfits, some are wearing head clothes wrapped up to rise up high off the head, some are wearing head clothes that are basically shawls, some have have bright white head scarves with cords wrapped around them, some have head clothes that are built up in a proud boat-like shape.

For the people who can read these uniforms they tell provide an amazing about of information. In the traditional realms of Asia, Africa, and Latin America clothing is a language.

I’m not looking at the Westerners and those dressed in Western garb. They are all dressed the same. You can’t really tell anything about most of them. How do you know how to communicate with them? How do you know who they are and where they are from? What do you talk to them about? They are unintelligible.

I at least go around in a Bills shirt.

Clothing is communication.

I’m going to have to sleep somehow. I should be arriving in Muscat around 9am. I can’t check into my hotel until 2pm. I meet Moni at noon.

I need to hit the ground running. I have meetings, interviews, and a project to put together. I need to be ready. I need to sleep.

I found a seat up by the windows. I curled up. Time passed by faster than I imagined it would have. I guess I was sleeping.


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Filed under: Airports, Dubai, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3717 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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