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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Nightmare in Dubai

Anyone who travels frequently will no doubt have horror stories about what can happen during a trip.  Airline delays, lost baggage, getting lost and that sort of thing is almost expected when you deal with a multitude of airlines, a variety of cultures, all when you are away from home.  Very few, however, can predict the sort of thing which happened to me on my trip back to the United States on March 27/28 of this year.

Why, how, when and where I traveled

After a period of illness which seemed as if it was only getting worse, I decided to travel to Dubai and Jordan to be with my family.  I would use the occasion to see my brother and his new bride whose wedding I missed as a result of that illness, and I would be in the company of people I love and care about, and who I know reciprocate those same feelings.  I also wanted to seek homeopathic remedies, and some of the best specialists in old Arabian medicine are there.

To pay the least possible price for my flight, I cashed in my United frequent flier miles to London, and purchased an Air France ticket the rest of the way to Dubai.  After spending a wonderful ten days with my brother and his wife, and after visiting with and seeing old friends and acquaintances, I flew to Jordan to spend a week with my family.  I bought a round trip ticket on Emirates airlines from Dubai, which naturally meant that I would need to return to Dubai to catch my flight back to the States since Air France refused to reroute my return flight via Amman.

The Journey starts

I headed for the airport on the morning of the twenty seventh in order to catch my flight to Dubai.  I had a ten hour layover, so I decided to call a friend with whom I didn’t get a chance to visit when I was there before, and thought that I would go to my brother’s house after that, eat a meal, rest for a bit, take a shower and continue my journey.  I was looking forward to the day, and was excited that a change in my routine which set in over the previous week was immanent.

Before the flight

My first scare took place when I was checking my luggage.  I wanted to check my bags all the way to Denver since I didn’t want to bother with them in Dubai.  The problem was that I had three tickets from three different airlines for my journey, which confused the heck out of the employee who checked me in.  He had to check the bags on Emirates to Dubai, then he had to make sure that Emirates routes it to Air France who were to take it all the way to London via Paris, then they were to give it to United, who were supposed to take it to Denver via Chicago.  The employee wasn’t sure how to go about doing that, and before I knew it, a crowd of airline employees formed in front of me.  They were all trying to figure out how to get that bag to its destination.  They made up several tags which they then had to void, until someone came who seemed to know how to do it.  Instead of giving me the regular baggage sticker to attach to my ticket sleeve, they gave me a letter size piece of paper to keep.  I guess they couldn’t fit everything on that little sticker after all.

I must say I was a bit nervous and wondered whether I would ever see my bag again.  Emirates, despite the fact that it won numerous rewards of excellence, doesn’t have the best follow up when it comes to lost baggage.  I have had a track record with them before, and, unlike my experience with many other airlines, the experience with them was horrible.  The other thought which got me even more worried was the fact that I was dealing with three different airlines and five different airports.  I may never be able to get compensation if the bag got lost, as each airline will blame the other for the loss.  I question the wisdom of what I was doing, and wondered if I shouldn’t pick up the bag in Dubai and take it with me and then hand it in person to Air France.  After considering it for a while, I finally decided to let it go – after all, there wasn’t much in it apart from my clothes, and most of those needed replacing anyway.

the flight to Dubai

As I boarded the flight, I was presented with a Braille safety manual, something which I know never existed on an Emirates flight.  I flew Emirates almost once a week for the better part of two years, and I learned to live with their insensitivity to people who required accommodations.  I inquired with the flight attendant who informed me that they were forced to print those manuals by the FAA as part of the requirements they had to fulfill in order to be allowed to land at JFK.  “God bless America” I thought.  I can’t believe how much effort was wasted in trying to convince them to do that.  It seemed as if everything we said fell on deaf ears, and when the American spoke, well, they listened!

The flight was otherwise normal, and we landed in Dubai close to 3:00 PM.  Everything went as expected -- The assistance I requested didn’t show up, and as usual, a poor unsuspecting Emirates employee was left with the task of sorting out what to do with me.  Dubai airport is huge, and despite the fact that I frequently traveled in and out of it, I still asked for assistance navigating it, simply because I could never figure it out.  Emirates has a department in charge of assisting passengers with special needs which they refer to as “special handling”.  The folks from special handling are supposed to meet the flight and offer assistance when requested, but as has always been the case when I traveled they just never bothered to show up.

At Dubai International Airport

The young man from Emirates who took it upon himself to help me wanted to take me to the special handling office.  I was supposed to wait there until one of their agents was free to take me to passport control and escort me out of the airport.  This meant that I could wait as much as an hour or more.  I know this because I went through the routine before, and I fought with special handling on numerous occasions before.

I suggested to the young man that it may be faster if he assisted me, and I explained to him my past experiences with special handling.  Though he has only been working at the airport for less than a month, I could see that he was quite sympathetic to what I said, and informed me that he would be delighted to assist me all the way through.

Getting the visa

My first task was to procure a transit visa to allow me to enter the country.  According to UAE laws, a passenger who has a layover of 8 hours or more qualifies for a 96 hour visa at the airport, as long as he had an onward ticket, and as long as the airline sponsored him for it.  The web site stated that the government doesn’t charge a fee for that particular type of visa, but as I found out later, Emirates and other airlines find it profitable to charge the unsuspecting customer a substantial amount of money.

It never ceases to amaze me how much effort people in the UAE spend on getting themselves out of doing what they’re supposed to do.  I think that if they used that same amount of effort to actually do the work they try to get themselves out of, they would be quite productive.  After running around and talking to so many people behind counters, we finally reached what seemed to be the right one.

At first they wanted to cell me a tourist package consisting of a hotel stay and various tours and such for $150.  I told them that I didn’t need a hotel, as I have a place to stay, and that I didn’t need to go on any tours, as I have already set up plans.  After a bit of arguing, they finally agreed to sponsor me for the visa, but wanted to charge me $50 for it.  Not having a choice in the matter, I agreed and proceeded to complete the transaction.  I got my visa in 15 minutes, and Johnson, the Emirates Airlines employee who was helping me, proceeded to guide me to passport control.

Trouble at passport control

Everything was going well until I gave the officer my passport and visa.  He looked at it and asked me whether there was anyone waiting for me outside, and I informed him that my brother was, and upon his request gave him my brother’s cell phone number.  I was expecting him to stamp the passport as they usually do, but instead, I was made to wait.  The officer stepped out of his area for over five minutes, by which time I was wondering what was going on.  I was in the middle of composing a text message to my brother informing him that I’m at passport control and that I’ll see him in five minutes (especially since I had no bags to collect), but I refrained from sending the message awaiting the officer’s return.

The officer came back, and as often is the case, he started talking to my companion.  I guess people think that if you’re blind you’re also deaf and dumb, but I’ve seen enough that this didn’t bother me, and I knew full well how to handle it when it happened.  Worse yet, it wasn’t that which occupied my thoughts, it was what the officer was saying that did.  “He is inadmissible on this type of visa” I heard him say to my companion.  Not knowing what to do, Johnson proceeded to look at me, and I instantly took over.  I asked the officer to explain to me the reasons behind their decision.  “You cannot be admitted under section 96” he proceeded to tell me, as if I knew what section 96 was.  I told him this much, and he stood there motionless with nothing else to say.  I immediately asked to speak to his superior.

The supervisor was a young man who must have been in his late twenties or early thirties.  He identified himself as Adil Abdulrahman, the duty manager, and after talking to him for a bit, I wondered which was higher, his IQ or his shoe size.

Mr. Abdulrahman’s explanation was that the law stipulates that a blind person cannot be legally admitted on a transit visa.  Despite the fact that all my paperwork was in order, my blindness and my blindness alone prevents me from being admissible.  If I wasn’t blind, I would have had no problem entering the UAE, but since I was, I needed to spend the ten hours at the airport.

I tried to reason with Mr. Abdulrahman.  I asked him to explain to me why such a proposition made sense to him.  After proceeding to tell me that this was the law, he told me that the idea is that a blind person is more likely to become a burden on the state, and hence the state chose not to take the risk.  “Something might happen to you if we let you in – who is going to take care of you”?  I found that to be ridiculous considering the fact that my brother was waiting for me outside to take me in his car to his house.  It wasn’t as if I was going in unaccompanied and that I was going to cross streets and find things (not that I have a problem with that mind you), but I found the notion quite preposterous.  In continuing to try to reason with him, I suggested that I’m actually les likely to get into trouble than a sighted person, since I was going to be looked after by a number of people, not to mention the fact that the UAE once was my home for two years.  A sighted person, on the other hand, was going to possibly rent a car or hassle for a taxi, which, strictly speaking, will make him more likely to get into an accident.  If that happened, the state was going to be obligated to him just the same.  When Mr. Abdulrahman had nothing to say, as was the case through out the evening, he cited the law.

It’s worth mentioning that there is no such law in the UAE.  There is a law which prohibited minors and people who were terribly sick from being admitted unless there was someone to sponsor them and vouch for them, but that law never mentioned people who have a permanent disability.

I continued to try to reason some more with the man, but he wouldn’t hear of it.  When prayer time came, he and most of his colleagues abandoned their posts presumably to pray.  I often wondered why employees through out the Arab world are most anxious to perform their prayers as soon as they become due, despite the flexibility afforded to them by Islam.  After prayer, some kind of a lunch was served, and it must have been delicious, since everyone didn’t have a problem continuing to ignore their business in favor of eating.

More problems

My problem was that my cell phone was a TD1 prepaid card from Germany.  I bought it two years ago when I stayed there for a month, and decided to use it when I travel since it can both make and receive calls anywhere there is GSM coverage, unlike my US based phone.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, I was running quite low on funds, and it was terribly expensive to call out or receive calls since I was roaming.  I was thus reduced to communicating with my brother via text messaging.  I needed to use the phone, and I knew that I would need it for a while to call a number of people, but they weren’t keen on the idea of having me use one of their phones.

I tried to use one of the pay phones located nearby, but there were no instructions and I couldn’t call mobile numbers or any numbers which started with a zero (the long distance code).  In our last SMS exchange, I asked my brother, who could actually see me through the glass from outside, to buy me a phone card and send me the number in the hope that I would be able to use it through the pay phone, but that didn’t work.  After I got the card number, I was told that I couldn’t call 800 numbers from a pay phone, and that was required to complete a calling card call.

Johnson, who by then was quite sympathetic, sensed my need for a phone and offered to have me use his.  I called one of my friends who was a director at Tamkeen, a training and advocacy organization founded by his highness Sh. Mohammed Bin Rashid, and asked him to explain to Mr. Abdulrahman that there was indeed no such law.  When I finally managed to get the two talking, and after a 15 minute conversation, my friend from Tamkeen told me that Mr. Abdulrahman wouldn’t listen to what he was saying.  “There is no hope from this guy” my friend remarked.  I was a bit surprised that my friend couldn’t do anything considering he’s a UAE national in a respected position, but then what was he to do!  It was the end of the work day, and why would he bother himself!  I guess on another level I expected my friend to be concerned, since this could happen to him or one of his constituents, since he himself was blind, but what the heck, it’s his country and therefore arguably his problem.

Mr. Abdulrahman became pretty scarce, and everyone else seemed to be reluctant to do anything about me.  I continued to pace through passport control, trying to find every chance to talk to any officer who would listen, and keeping an ear open for Mr. Abdulrahman.  I also needed to make some phone calls – I desperately needed to use the phone, but there didn’t seem to be a way to do that.

It was past 5:30 and Johnson was still with me.  Realizing that this may take a while, and sensing his anxiety, I asked him to leave.  He told me that he didn’t want to leave me there, but that his supervisors may give him a hard time if he stayed longer.  He wanted to make some phone calls and try to convince them to let him stay, but I told him that he should go, partly to spare himself the unpredictable consequences and partly because he could actually be a lot more useful elsewhere.  After much effort and a lot of convincing, Johnson left, and I was on my own.

I grew more frustrated knowing my brother was so close yet I couldn’t see him.  Heck I couldn’t even call him or anyone else for that matter, since my funds in my prepaid TD1 phone card completely ran out.  I wondered if I could sneak in unnoticed, but quickly abandoned the thought when I saw four or five people standing like wild guard dogs near the exit who seemed to know me quite well and who were only too happy to escort me back.  Thinking about it some more, I knew that it would mean trouble, since I have to get out a few hours later to catch my flight, and there would be no telling what they would do then.

I continued to occasionally run into Mr. Abdulrahman and tried to reason with him further still.  The more we talked, the more he stuck to his position and the more hostile he became.  He also took advantage of his ability to disappear from my sight, given that my sight doesn’t carry far, and since he was soft spoken I would have a hard time finding him.

Shortly past 6:00 PM, an employee of Emirates Airlines came to talk to me.  I recognized him because he was the one who sorted my visa earlier.  He informed me that passport control sent him to tell me that I needed to go back to the transit lounge, and that he was here to take me back.  I was beginning to think that this may be inevitable, but I wasn’t yet ready to give up.  I told him that if anyone from passport control needed to speak with me that they could do so without going through a third party.  I told him to let them know that I am perfectly capable of communicating with them in any of three languages.  Surprised by my defiance, he sheepishly retreated back to his position without saying anything.

The search for a solution

Johnson came back around 6:15.  He told me that he has finished his shift, but that he was here to check on me and see if I needed anything.  He told me he could stay for as long as I needed him to.  Needless to say I was quite shocked.  Johnson didn’t have to do that.  His shift was over.  Why did he need to worry about me or about anything for that matter!  He could have just gone home and forgot about the whole thing!  I guess in living in a world of “professionals” where you learn to deal with people as robots who are programmed to follow procedures, you tend to learn to hide your emotions, nevertheless act on them, and you tend to forget that we are human beings who want to do the right thing not because we’re paid to do it, but because it is the right thing to do.  That’s why Johnson was back, he was back not because he was an employee, an airline agent, he was a human being concerned for his fellow human being, though he’d only met him a few hours ago.

I explained to Johnson that I needed to use the phone.  After thinking for a split second, he took out the SIM card from his phone and gave it to me.  “It’s a prepaid line.  I don’t have much left in it, but it would at least give you a local number for people to call you”.  I told him that I didn’t know how long I would need it for and that I didn’t want to keep him around.  “That’s OK, I can go home, but you hold on to it.  I’ll disconnect it tomorrow and get a new one.  You will be well on your way then” he said.  I asked him if I could at least compensate him for the cost of getting a new line, $15 or so, but he refused.  I told him I could leave it for him at the airport if he could tell me where and with whom, but he just wasn’t concerned.  “Just use it to sort out your affairs and I’ll be fine”, his response was.

There were just a few cents left in Johnson’s card, but the card my brother bought me earlier also functioned as a refill card for that type of SIM, so I walked away with a loaded phone.

Fortunately, I kept all of my contacts in my phone.  I started calling and text messaging people left and right.  Some of these people were well connected, and phone calls started coming in to Mr. Abdulrahman, but I guess by then he took it personal and he wouldn’t budge.  In response to an acquaintance who called him, he cited national security as a concern.  According to him, admitting me would violate a national law, and he wasn’t prepared to do that.  Gosh, I didn’t know I could be so contentious

Giving up

I had a bit of trouble reaching key people I wanted to get in touch with.  Many such people wouldn’t answer their cell phones if they didn’t know the number.  Having a local number didn’t seem as good as I initially thought it would be, since it was an add hock number, and hence was almost useless but for relatives and friends.  Realizing that, I finally decided to go back to the transit lounge, especially that it was close to 7:30 then, and much of the evening was already gone.  I was tired, sweating, shaking and angry, but I was finally beginning to realize that I may be fighting a losing battle.  By the time things get sorted, assuming they do, and I wasn’t sure how that was going to happen, it would be too late, and I wouldn’t get much done anyway.  It just wasn’t worth it.

I asked my brother to go home, and headed back to the transit lounge trying to think of ways to spend the rest of the evening.  I usually don’t have trouble finding things to do and enjoy talking to people and getting to know their stories, but I was in no mood to do that.  I sweated so much my clothes became dirty, and I was so exhausted I could hardly talk.  I just sat there, taking a drink offered to me by the hostess and wondering what I could do for another six hours.  I was very self conscious, and couldn’t help realize how much I needed a shower.

New ideas

As I was pulling out my laptop hoping to find a wireless network and connect to the Internet, after which I can email some of the people I was trying to reach, a thought came to my mind and hit me like a brick.  Why not send these people a text message and tell them who I am!  They’ll know it’s me and they can call me back or at least pick up the phone when I call.

I did this with a reporter at Alitihad, one of the oldest and most respected national newspapers in the country.  She and I met under unusual circumstances at a symposium at the press club in Dubai almost three years ago, and she introduced me to her brother, who is a remarkable blind person.  I knew she would be sympathetic to my plight, and that if she couldn’t help right there and then, she would at least bring this issue up to the attention of the whole nation, in hopes that it would never happen again.

Sure enough it worked.  No sooner had I sent the text message, she was on the phone talking to me.  I explained what was going on, and she was outraged.  She apologized profusely and promised to do her best.  It was getting late then – we both recognized it, but we also knew that this wouldn’t be the end of the story.

Shortly after we hung up the phone, she called back to tell me that she has spoken to a tabloid paper who was very interested in covering the story and that someone will call me right away.  Yet another minute later she called back and gave me a contact at Dubai TV and asked me to call him and explain to him the situation.  She said that he may even bring a crew to cover the story right away.  Things were looking up.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I guess it became personal to me as well.  I wanted above anything to prove to this Abdulrahman son of a bitch that he’s wrong and that I can get in if I wanted to.

Finally, a solution

While all of this was going on, my brother called.  Upset and angry about the situation, he was trying his own contacts.  He’s been working for Dubai Municipality for over a year, and he has built relationships with people who were either influential in their own right or who knew people that were.  It seemed as if he finally caught a break around 8:00 PM or so.  A colleague called to tell him that he can pick me up if he’s willing to sign a piece of paper stating that he is responsible for me, something which he offered to do when he talked with Abdulrahman earlier.  He asked me to get ready and informed me that he was on his way.

I called the reporters I was in contact with and gave them an update.  The Dubai TV guy was relieved and happy, and told me that he was going to go home.  My contact at Alitihad was relieved, but wanted to cover the affair still and speak about it.  The reporter from the Emirates Today tabloid was happy because she could send a photographer to take pictures of me.  We talked several times, and I finally met her photographer at one of my favorite restaurants in Dubai, Arous Dimashq (The Bride Of Damascus).

My brother was at the airport around 8:30.  He had a difficult time finding Abdulrahman, who was performing his evening prayers and who afterwards was having dinner.  He apparently called his connection back who this time stayed on the phone with him, and who made the necessary phone calls to get Abdulrahman off of his dinner plate.  At around 9:30, I was escorted back to passport control where I ran into Abdulrahman, who looked like he really had his ass chewed.  “Sorry Zuhair” he said sheepishly, “we gave you a hard time”.  Fuming still at the sight of him I said “I hope one day I’d be able to pay you back your kindness”, which caused some of the people around us to giggle.

My brother signed the required paper, which appeared to be a standard form, and we both left our passports with the officers and proceeded to get a byte to eat and get my pictures taken by the newspaper’s photographer.  Shortly before 11, we went to my uncle’s house who lived five minutes away from the airport, where I managed to speak to the Emirates Today reporter yet another time, and where I gulped down a couple of bottles of water and took a shower.

It seems the reporter called a high level official at the airport authority who assured her that what happened was a mistake.  He promised to personally investigate the matter, and I know that he did, since I heard from my brother a few days later that his connection was mift because management centured everyone involved.  I guess the higher you get in the chain of management in the UAE the less details matter.

Back to the airport

I headed back to the airport shortly before midnight, since my flight was due to depart at 1 AM.  I got to the Air France check in counter at around 12:10, and we weren’t sure if the flight was closed or not since we were so close to the flight’s departure time.  Things were made even worse when they wanted to see my passport, and couldn’t understand it when I told them that it was at passport control.  I was still mad and angry, and was in no mood to explain anything to anyone – they just had to understand.  I also told them that they should have received my checked in luggage from Emirates Airlines, but the guy couldn’t find anything about it in his system.  I was livid, and everyone knew it.

Seeing me in this state, and not knowing what to do, especially since there was so little time left, the airline employee printed out my boarding pass (without seeing my passport) and motioned me to go.  I remember hearing him on the phone with Emirates trying to locate my luggage.  If I had any doubt that my bags were lost, it has suddenly turned into complete certainty.

We got to passport control and asked for our passports, only to find that the employee at the counter didn’t know what we were talking about.

It was at that point that I lost it.  I remember screaming at the guy “what the hell are you doing to me – with what you did to me earlier, you’re killing me”, only to hear him giggle and say “well, I guess this is to finish you off”.  He opened the little divider and let us in to talk with the duty manager.

I explained the situation to another officer behind a window who appeared to know what I was talking about.  He fumbled through some paperwork and I thought he was looking for our passports.  He then picked up the phone and called someone, and we heard him say that he can’t find those passports.

I lost what little composure I had regained over the minutes that passed since I talked to the first officer who wanted to “finish me off”.  It was made worse when he tried to make it look like my fault for being late.  With what they did to me throughout the evening fresh in my mind, I found myself screaming at the guy behind the window so loud that other officers gathered around us to see what was happening.  I didn’t look like someone anyone could reason with.  Coupled with the fact that I was blind, one of the officers approached my brother and started whispering to him that the passports are OK, it’s just that there was a shift change and that since they handle departures at this side, someone needed to cross over to the other side and get the passports from arrivals where they were left.  It was almost 12:30, and the walk from passport control to the gate would take me at least 20 minutes, that’s assuming lifts were on time and I found buggies to take me.

I thought it was over when we got our passports.  I said my good-byes to my brother, and as I was turning away I heard one of the officers say to my brother “why is your brother angry after all the help we gave him this evening”.  When I heard those words it was as if this man took out a gun and shot me.  I turned back and started screaming at him.  “So you call what you did to me help?  You screwed up and you know it.  You know it damn well too.  I was supposed to get in from the start.  I didn’t get in because of your help, I got in because someone higher than you are gave the order and you had no choice.  And you know what?  This is not the end of the story too – read tomorrow’s papers and you’ll see what I mean.  Believe me, this is not the end of it – no it isn’t, not at all”.

I then turned around and walked away quickly.  I didn’t want to talk to or hear anything from these bloody idiots.  I wanted it to be over with.  I wanted to go home, wanted my brother to go home, and most importantly wanted to be out of there.

The flight back home

I was one of the last passengers to board the flight, and it was obvious they were waiting for me.  When I asked the gate agent about the bag and whether they got it from Emirates, she was quick to answer “yes, we got it”, without so much as checking a computer or looking at anything.  “yeah, you got it my foot” were my thoughts then, but I didn’t care – I was finally out of there.

The rest of the flight home was normal.  I was so tired I remember becoming lost and disoriented.  Since I find it difficult to sleep on a plane, I was awake the whole time, and remember going beyond tired.  I planned to inquire about my luggage along the route, but my main concern whenever I got somewhere was to just sit down and rest.

It was no surprise when I couldn’t locate my luggage in Chicago.  In fact, I was so ready for it I was even happy since I knew that I now have no chance of a delay at customs in case they needed to see what’s in the bag.  I filed the claim in Denver, and was then told that the bag is not even in the system – it’s as if they’d never got it.  “They probably never did”, I remember thinking to myself.  The surprise however was when the bag turned up a couple of days later.  I guess it’s true that miracles do happen.


The events of that day left me with many thoughts and reflections, some of which still haunt me from time to time.  Perhaps the most important one is my realization that my brother is now a grown man – he’s really not my younger brother any more.  He has built his own contacts, he has made his way through life, he has built his personality – he is his own man.  I will never have enough words to express my pride – never.

Another thought, one that scarcely leaves my mind, is how someone could take the time to aid a perfect stranger without awaiting a payback.  Johnson and I didn’t share much beyond our sheer humanity.  He was Indian, I was Arab.  He was probably Hindu, I was Muslim.  Despite that, he saw no reason not to lend a hand to a stranger traveling away from home when he thought a hand was needed – at his own expense, when he could have come up with a million reasons not to.  Looking back at it, Mr. Abdulrahman, the duty manager at passport control at Dubai International Airport was praying to his God whilst unnecessarily inflicting pain and suffering on another fellow Muslim, while Johnson, who some fundamentalists and ignorant Muslims (possibly Mr. Abdulrahman himself) consider an infidel and have no problems condemning him to eternal punishment in hell fire was doing the right thing towards a fellow human being.  I wondered how God looked at it then.  I wonder how he looks at it now.

While I know and understand that God wants us to do what is right and be good followers of what he prescribed for us, I further confirm my realization that the sole judge of us of what we do and who we are, the dispenser of bounties and punishment is God and God alone.  No one dare assume that right, for who are we, and what do we know!  I know that God expects me to do the right thing towards the others whom he created.  As for judging them, that’s very much his jurisdiction not mine, and I don’t recall him delegating it to me.


  1. Well written, Zuhair! Boy, what a nightmare. I had no idea it was so bad. It's been a couple of months since your return, but welcome home!

  2. Holy shit holy shit!!!! Well, I don't know if anything changed after what happened, but I transited through Dubai twice less than a month after this happened wi
    th no hassle whatsoever. In fact, the second time I arrived from Libya around 11:00 PM and my flight to Bombay wasn't until five hours later. I politely declined "special assistance" offers because I wanted to go shopping and not sit in some lounge somewhere. This I was able to do by asking directions from people who were just hanging around same as me. I didn't have enough time to go out of the airport like on previous visits but if I had, I would surely have asked for assistance tthrough all the nonsense in the airport, as it is enormous and complicated. So, I don't know if my easy time was because of changes resulting from your trouble or not but I would like to think corporations can change, but On the other hand, maybe it was just a fluke that no one gave me trouble. You never know for sure. Do you have copies of newspaper articles?

  3. Hi Jean, and nice to hear from you. The articles have been taken off the paper's web sites, but I know that my relatives and friends in the UAE have copies. the trouble is that they're in Arabic, which is why I didn't put them here.

  4. Dearest Zuhair,

    After meeting you and Ali, my trip to Dubai and delight it brought me was multiplied by many many fold. Thank you.

    Yet, the beginning of my arrival to Dubai, you know, as we both waited over an hour for special assistance which caused our meeting, to get into the country. When we parted, I was taken to the baggage claim in my wheelchair. I had to await my companions who were arriving 1.5 hours after I from Amsterdam.

    As I waited, I thought it a good idea to get some money changed. I put my depbit card into the maching that had just given a women money. The machine immediately ate my card. So there I was, with no card, no money but a $600 debit to my account.

    The response was not as equally as negative but very non-challant in my having to accept my fate.

    I was told that on Monday after 10 am and before 11am, I could go to a bank in down town and collect my card. No matter what my travel plans were, they were to be interrupted.

    I too was helped long after his shift was over by my wheerlchair attendant. His name must have been Johnson or Johnson's brother. I was not allowed to tip him as I was surrounded by security and bsggage managers who made it clear to Johnson and me that my tipping him for his wonder assistance was UNACCEPTABLE.

    The very very interesting thing was when I went to the bank. I was barely able to explain my need to collect my bank card, when I was motioned to a window with a sign that indicated that it was the place to collect sucked in cards. No one apeared at the window for 10-15 minutes. When a woman appeared, when did not eve wait to hear me out.. She left for another 10 minutes or so an then reappeared with my card. It seems that this type of inconvienence is so common that it warrants it's own bank window and it's very own rude person.

    I have to say, though Zuhair, that I found most all the other people that helped or served me, kind and gentle and unusually sweet. So much so, as you know, I am looking forward to returning, perhaps to live there for a bit.

    I know that being in a wheel chair means that most people don't see you. One becomes invisible or deaf. You saw me, even though you are not sighted, but rather all seeing.

    This happens all over the world. Fear, ignorance and miroscopic and myopic worlds cause most of the worlds and peoples interpersonal horrors.

    Zuhair, know that in the universe, others may attempt to interrupt the process but you know that what you seek is seeking you.

    All the best... Melanie

  5. Salamu Aulaikum Zuhair,
    As I read this I was devistated that you suffered in this way. I mean SUFFERED. This is ignorance and power in the wrong hands demontrated clearly.
    You are, perhaps the most remarkable person I have ever met. You are truly kind, truly caring, and ma sha Allah one of the most excellent examples of what it means to be Muslim and what Islam is truly about. I am always honored to know you and call myself your auntie.
    Stay strong in this Zuhair and do not give up. Believe me, people saw your story, understood its injustice, and I pray that enough of them will be moved by it that changes will begin to occur in UAE that can help you never experience this again.
    Salamu Aulaikum,
    "Khala" Eman