As ever, the toughest time when flying back to the Outpost from the Home City is when approaching the check-in desk in the Home City International terminal. The ear first catches snippets of loud lively, usually inane, accented talk among the Outposters queuing up. Then their all being grossly dressed up and done to a tee visually registers. Then you notice their colossal suitcases, crammed with shopping from the Home City — as if this is not bloody Dubai, shopping-wise at least. Then there are the odd bits and pieces, such as screaming kids being screamed at, perfect-hair made-up peasant ladies addressing the check-in clerk in the singular of village casualness (hey, we’re all Compatridos, after all, ah?), couples losing their way inside the linearly arranged terminal.
Waiting to board the plane at the gate uneasiness grows, as you can now hear the agitated talk growing in volume and commonplace inanity, you can also see the local celebrities (back from a valedictory Home City weekend) cruising in. Moreover, once inside the plane, there will always be two or three guys shouting at someone they know (we all know each other here, right?) and have just noticed, while very short women in very high boots struggle to stuff abnormally oversized pieces of cabin luggage inside the overhead lockers.
Sometimes, upon arriving, all you want to do is rapidly escape indoors, to the somber silence of your flat, ignoring the barren and hot and humid and ugly and stinking expanse of outdoors between the pressurised plane cabin and the sanctuary of home.
Sometimes, however, like today, the day is cool and bright, the mountains look almost pretty in the distance, the sea is of many hues and colours, the barren hills north of the airport are green with ephemeral grass. So, you drive to the beach instead, abandoned and peaceful, to gaze at the grey and turquoise sea that separates you from Gaza strip, Sinai and Egypt. Sometimes, like today, this brings you peace.