Our flight did leave on time but Karachi’s international departure lounge was packed with people with barely enough standing room since all PIA flights were delayed.
By the time we landed in Dubai, it was already 3:00 am Karachi time. The airplane coasted along the airport runway for ten minutes. When the plane stopped, I noticed buses pulling up: There was no chute to connect us to the terminal and we would need to walk down the dark staircase and ride a bus (without seats) for another 15 minutes to the terminal for our onward flight. (I take back what I said in my blog-post from when we flew through Dubai a month ago.)
“Why do passengers from Pakistan have to take buses?” I asked an Emirates attendant, who helped me with my hand-luggage as I carried a sleepy Minal down the stairs to the heated tarmac.
He shrugged. “It’s random.”
“Random?” I held on to the metal rail. “I’ve never taken a flight coming from the US and had to deal with this!”
The attendant did not have a response to my anger.
Today, barely recovered from the long journey, I browse through the blog of one Pakistan’s largest English daily newspapers, Dawn, and come across an essay about Saudi discrimination against South Asians. Though Dubai is part of the U.A.E., and is in many ways different from Saudi Arabia, Asian laborers in Dubai experience similar hardships to those that Ahmed Ali Khalid raises in his blog entry. In a 2006 BBC story, reporter Masud Alam writes about apartheid in Dubai (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6171909.stm). Our experience at the airport is a microcosm of a larger story, one that hasn’t changed much since Alam’s narrative posted five years ago.