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Layover in Dubai

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I’ve usually enjoyed the “something for nothing” hotels airlines book you into when their flights don’t quite gel or something goes spectacularly wrong.

Travel with Dusty Miller

On one occasion I had a memorably pleasant long weekend in a Hilton hotel in the Canary Islands when a wildcat strike by spotty Herberts and oiks at Heathrow meant we couldn’t fly to Johannesburg with South African Airlines as scheduled.

One of my favourite recording artists, Tony Bennett, was also stuck there with a honey not quite old enough to be his grand-daughter (which she may well have been!)

Attempts by one of our number to get him to cheer us up by singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in the airport lobby came to nought, but later the almost heart-stopping sight of the skimpy bikini-clad chick in the hotel pool was heart-lifting . . . if you were under 90 in the shade.

Prior to the impromptu stay at the Hilton, I’d had 10 days or so in a pretty grotty pension exploring the Canaries (did you know they were named not after singing yellow cage birds, but the Latin for dogs?) and nearby Portuguese Madeira after cruising from Durban to Las Palmas on the old Windsor Castle.

About a year later I ended a three week jaunt based in a really nasty (but spectacularly cheap) backpackers’ outfit at Glyfada, Athens, when our SAA Boeing sliced off the tail of a Capital Airways DC 10 on the runway. It took four hours in baking heat to be told we were going nowhere that particular day and I confidently looked forward to a night or two at somewhere swish like the Hotel Grande Bretagne!

Wrong Miller!
SAA booked us into a dump which made the backpackers’ lodge actually look like the Grande Bretagne but, with no lifts, some elderly passengers were facing cardiac arrests humping luggage to their rooms. (There were no porters!)

Another unscheduled layover thanks to the former Zambian Scareways’ not unusual inability to fulfil its obligations, at Larnaca in Cyprus introduced me and several hearty young farmers from the once prosperous Middle Sabi, who’d been staring at Pyramids in Egypt, to the delights of our first ever topless beach.

To the best of my knowledge there’s no topless swimming or sun-bathing allowed in Dubai, but the water is great in the Persian Gulf or maningi luxury hotel swimming pools 365 days a year. It’s winter there now and it was an unusually chilly, grey 19C when we left our Emirates flight from Harare via Lusaka last Sunday at 6:30am.

I had 19,5 hours to kill in the United Arab Emirates before catching a direct flight to Adelaide, South Australia. There are much worse places to spend the thick end of a December day!

Emirates kindly bumped up the Economy class ticket I’d bought on-line a month ago to their very luxurious and ultra-comfortable Business Class. (Was that something to do with my job?)

But a hotel voucher was still issued to cattle class and I wondered which one of the nearly 400 hotels between three and eight stars in Dubai would be my home for some hours.

It was the Copthorne Airport Hotel. I had seen the odd Copthorne hotel around the globe (the name always reminds me of a quaint North Yorkshire village with its own pack of foxhounds!)

Googling them, they seem to be British-Singaporean owned and among many others operate the famous Gloucester Hotel, London. Copthorne and Millennium hotels are in the same group.

But candidly, I got the strong impression this was yet another Emirates commercial operation. Certainly all the signage was that of the airline.

A free comfortable shuttle takes about 15 minutes in rush-hour Dubai traffic. (Sunday’s a working day in Muslim counties.) About 10 people were ahead of me at check-in, but at least four clerks worked super-efficiently.

Check in is fast because almost all guests are on Emirates layovers; no money changes hands; no credit/debit cards need to be swiped. You show your boarding card for the next leg of the journey, your passport’s scanned, you have a card-key…and Bob’s your uncle….or the President!

I was ensconced in a perfectly comfortable, if entry-level, double room on the second floor and running a steaming bath within three minutes of entering the foyer.

Beds were inviting, room and bathroom clean, view pleasant if unexceptional amid Dubai’s stunning cityscape.

I battled to find an English language channel on the large flat screen TV and when I did it was Fox Movies showing almost non-stop mindless violence and gratuitous sex. So that was all right!
I was at breakfast within 20 minutes: an international buffet.

There were no bacon or pork sausages but smoked chicken bangers were exemplary, going well with fluffy golden scrambled eggs and glorious mushrooms. There were lots of fresh fruits and cereals; a hot drink dispenser made magical drinking chocolate and a cold one dispensed lovely cranberry juice.

Late lunch comprised just (for me, by choice) aromatic Thai chicken soup and Middle Eastern flatbreads, pudding and coffee, before catching a free shuttle to mooch around jaw-dropping shopping malls.

As I hoped to sleep on the flight to Adelaide and didn’t want to be woken at 3:30am for “breakfast” (I’ve done this trip before!) I had a late supper of mainly pasta, followed by chilled Moet & Chandon champagne in the Business Class lounge at the airport.

Sleep was, however, out of the question. Flipping through the 1 400 channels of entertainment, BBC World News was breaking the Sydney Siege story and, news junky that I am, was glued to the various news channels for the next 10 hours!

Would I stay at the Dubai Copthorne again? I may well be so doing in another month on the way home to Ha-ha-ha-rare! (Africa’s fun capital!)

dustym@zimind.co.zw

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