I woke refreshed after my 23 minutes of sleep and was rearing to go. Running round under a cold shower whilst trying not to let my teeth chatter or shiver to loudly was a challenge but Will managed to sleep through it all. He only woke when I provided him with coffee. Check out was super fast and our driver was waiting outside.
Having checked the flight details we were aware there would be a bit of a delay somewhere along the line due to the snow in Heathrow but we didn’t anticipate quite how much carnage the cute white stuff could cause.
We were due to have almost a two hour layover at Doha before onward flight to Heathrow at 12.50pm local time. When we got our boarding passes for both legs of the flight we realised that they had delayed the connecting flight till 8pm that night.
There then followed several hours of milling round the airport and periodically checking the internet to glean details as Qatar airways were not very informative. There were members of staff telling people being told to sit here, there, wait here, there. Don’t wait there etc but no official announcements were made.
I did feel sorry for the poor buggers on the information desk as people were getting irate and shouting at them. I asked if there was anything happening and was told that there were no hotel rooms empty and that they were trying their best to find us all rooms. I had searched on the internet and had found plenty of available rooms and asked if we managed to book ourselves into one would the airline reimburse us for the costs and for transportation.
I was told no, the airline had agreements with certain hotels and that we could not book it ourselves. I said that once we passed the 10 hour deadline we would be perfectly at liberty to do so but we would wait patiently. I suggested that they should perhaps make some announcements. If people are given information they wouldn’t be quite so annoyed and come shouting at the information desk. She said that there was no information to tell people so I told her that that is what the announcement should say. Please wait patiently we are doing our best to find everyone hotels and there was no flight information available.
After about an hour an announcement came over the speakers saying exactly that. I was quite pleased they had taken my advice and used my speech. I wasn’t too impressed when they started repeating that same message every 15 minutes.
We were provided with another voucher for heavy refreshment, which turned out to be samosas and chips or chicken bun and chips. We ate out of boredom. We did speak to some very interesting people and there was a sort of camaraderie between those of us who had not been taken to an hotel yet.
We were dreading being taken to an hotel with just the clothes on our backs. I was more worried about running out of cigarettes. Disaster was averted, I bought a carton in duty free. . . phew!
I wouldn’t have worried about my clothes had I known what was coming next. We were herded on a bus and taken to the arrivals lounge and told we had to go through immigration and then collect our cases before being taken to the hotel. First we had to queue up at a desk to get an hotel voucher. This was an arduously slow process where the clerk had to manually type in our passport nos and details of the hotel and package before printing off the form and handing it over.
The next bit was even worse, immigration. There were only about 800 people here but we stood in queues that were moving at a snail’s pace. Yet again the clerks were manually inputting all passport details, checking photos etc and all whilst looking amazingly dour. We were again herded outside the airport where we were told to wait for the hotel bus which would probably be about another 20 mins or so.
I dread to think how they will cope at the airport when the World cup is held here. Most people were getting a little bit moody but imagine how bad it will be with 100 times the amount of travellers who will generally be boozed up footy louts arrive and have to wait 100 times as long! Will and I are predicting riots at passport control. The other worrying fact is that the airline were struggling to find rooms for 800 people. Ok so this may be purely a matter of economics but how many footy fans will be able to afford expensive hotels?
Will was of course the hero of the day. He had been to a cash machine in the airport when we first arrived and got out cash because he anticipated delays and the cash machines running out of money. He asked how far to the hotel and was told about 30 rials by taxi. We grabbed our mate Dave who we had been chatting to and joined the taxi queue and off we went.
We arrived at the hotel before the masses so got checked in pretty smartish. There were people milling around who had been sent to the hotel hours previously but it seemed as if they hadn’t been here long.
Will and I retired to our room, desperate to have a wash and brush up and maybe a drink before bed. We could not believe our room, well suite. Solid wood furniture, leather sofas a huge flat screen tv in the seating area, dining area with mini sink, two fridges and a microwave. In the bedroom was a walk in wardrobe a huge bed and another massive flat screen tv.
The light in our bathroom was not working so the bathroom was a bit of a mystery. We made ourselves a cup of tea and reported the faulty light. After a short while a chap from housekeeping arrived and fixed the problem. Just as he left our new mate Dave called us to say dinner was still available for another 30 mins and that it was apparently good.
Never wishing to miss out on free food we left in search of the coffee lounge. It was only as we were walking around did we realise how truly magnificent this hotel was and of course once again how poorly dressed we were. Men here wear the thobes (smart white dress) with the Shimagh and Egal (headdress and ties with tassels). Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world and it is certainly apparent.
Our very late dinner was buffet style and had real meat and cakes too. Will and I both were happy and not long after retired to bed.