Today is the fourth time I have come to Dubai. I have enjoyed every visit to Dubai. Though I like the city, I am not so sure whether I would like living here. This is just because the city is a bit too expensive for my liking. And a person like me cannot just resist the temptation of utilizing the many facilities the city provides. The people here are also extremely friendly and I can vouch for this as I have had wonderful experience – people of the Government, people in the hotels, people at the public facilities, people on the road and last but not the least the taxi drivers.
I am reminded of my first experience of Dubai, which almost created a totally different image of this wonderful place on this earth. I was invited by Cognizant to attend a workshop on Testing Practices in Dubai in Feb12. My boss approved my travel and thus I was on way for my first official travel of any form in Mobily. I applied for the travel and specifically requested for the visa to enter Dubai. The travel desk gave me the tickets by Emirates and booked me in Movenpick Hotel in Jumeira. I was told that Movenpick was close to Hotel Jumeira where the workshop was to be held. On the day of the travel, I went to the GR (Government Relation) Office to pick up my passport. I submitted my Iqama and collected my passport. I also collected my Exit-Reentry visa. The travel desk informed me that I would get visa on arrival and thus they did not apply for my visa.
I completed the day’s work and Mr. Swamidas drove me to the airport. At the Emirates counter, they wanted to see my visa. I told them that I would get the visa on arrival at Dubai. I showed them my Exit-Reentry visa. However, they wanted to see my Iqama. I told them that I did not have it as I had submitted it to the office as per the norms. They took my Exit-Reentry visa and the tickets and went inside for discussion. After some time, they came back and gave me my boarding pass. I boarded the flight and landed in Dubai at around 12 Midnight Dubai time.
I went to the visa counter and paid the fee of 185 dirhems for the visa. I filled the form and stood in queue for getting my eye scanned and finger print recording. After I had completed that I stood in queue for immigrating. When my turn came, the immigration officer asked for my Iqama. I told him that I was not carrying the same. He told me that I could not enter Dubai and referred me to the Officers. I went to the Office of the Officers and explained my case. I showed them my Exit-Reentry visa and my appointment letter with Mobily (which was stamped by Government of Saudi Arabia). They refused to accept these documents and insisted on the Iqama. I requested if they could check their system as the Exit-Reentry visa contained my Iqama number. They explained that their system did not contain details of the Iqamas issued in Saudi Arabia. They were interest in seeing my profession as recorded in the Iqama. If it were satisfactory, they would allow me entry. The officers told me to return to Riyadh.
It was nearly 2AM when I ultimately gave up. I went to the Emirates office to prepone my return flight (I was originally scheduled to return at 8:55 PM the next night). Emirates booking officer told me that the earliest flight available was at 6PM the next day. I booked in that flight at a cost of 450 dirhems. Now, I had to spend 15 hours in the Dubai airport. I started loitering around the Duty Free shops. I sent a message to Navas if he could fax my Iqama copy as soon as possible. However, there was no reply from Navas as he was sleeping, as he should have been. I next sent message to my boss explaining my situation. My boss was in Europe at that moment and immediately replied to write to his Secretary, Mohammed Abdidjama, to arrange for the Iqama copy. I sent a mail to Mohammed. Now, it was nearly 4AM and I was extremely tired.
I found that there was a hotel in the Dubai Airport. I went to the reservation desk and they informed me that only suites were available at the cost of USD 400 per hour. I asked her to give me one room for 6 hours. I found myself in a huge room with a huge bed and a treadmill and huge table and many more wonderful items. I changed and crashed into the bed.
Next morning I got up at 8AM and checked my mail. Nothing containing my Iqama so far. I got ready as I had to vacate the room in few hours. I was still tired. However, I ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes. At 9:30AM, I was ready and again checked my mail. This time I found that Mohammed had sent a scanned copy of my Iqama. I went to check out. I paid the bill and requested the Manager to print the scanned copy of the Iqama. I forwarded the mail to his mailbox and he provided me a print out.
I took the print out and went to the Immigration Desk once again. This time they stamped my visa without any questions. So, I had entered Dubai. I took a Taxi and went straight to Hotel Jumeira. The conference had started. However, I saw Tridip Mitra. Tridip was my colleague in NIIT and we were together in Bangkok; though we worked on different projects. Tridip was now a senior manager for the Testing Practice in Cognizant. I sat through the presentations and asked a few questions. Soon, it was lunchtime. During lunch, I met many more Cognizant Officers. I ate a bit as I did not feel hungry. After lunch, the sessions started again. However, now I was having serious difficulty in concentrating due to lack of sleep the previous night. At 2:30PM, I excused myself and told Cognizant that I needed getting back to the Airport to catch my flight.
I entered in to deal with a limousine driver to take me around Dubai on the way to the Airport and drop me at the Airport. He said he would charge 150 dirhems. I agreed. The limousine took me to Burj Khalifa. I took photographs with my iPad. After spending about 20 minutes here, we started for the Airport. I kept clicking photographs all along the way. We reached the Airport at around 4:30PM. I paid for the limousine service and went to the check in counter. There was no more adventure and I reached Riyadh safe and sound. Mr. Swamidas was there to receive me. I reached home and slept.
My office reimbursed all my expenses though it took some explaining to do about why I stayed in a different hotel and not where I was booked to stay. Also, why did I fly on a different flight as against the one booked for me. I did not learn much about Testing. However, I got all needed lessons about travelling in the Gulf.