Stranded in Abu Dhabi

The life of a non-rev is always an adventure, but so far I’d say that my journey to Cairo takes the cake for the most stressful travel experience I’ve had thus far! My friend Erica and I pondered over taking several different routes to get to Egypt and after much deliberation, we decided that Dallas to Abu Dhabi, and then Abu Dhabi to Cairo would be our best bet. Since we were flying standby, we wanted to take an airline that we both had agreements with to avoid paying for a confirmed ticket, and we also wanted to take a route that would give us enough room to sleep. This brought us to flying on Etihad which was an overall AMAZING experience.

Erica and I met up in Dallas and checked in with the Etihad staff. We chatted with a manager who ended up blocking off a whole row for each of us to sleep in and then went as far as to walk us down to the aircraft to ensure that the crew would take great care of us. We were greeted by the entire flight crew, given champagne, a couple of large bottles of water for the 15 hour flight, and 2 amenity kits each with comfort and hygiene items for the trip. Erica was able to get lots of sleep during the flight, but even with all the room I ended up being awake for most of the flight. The journey still went surprisingly quick between the meals, the movies, and the cat naps in between, so before we knew it we were in Abu Dhabi!

Once we arrived in Abu Dhabi our luck had changed. We went to the check-in counter and were told that the flight to Cairo was oversold and we would have to wait for the next flight at 3am. As bummed as we were, it wasn’t that bad. It was already about 10 pm so the next flight wasn’t too far away. We got dinner and then hung out in a corner of the airport until we could check-in again. This time we were told we were not going to make it on and it didn’t look good for us all day.

We started to panic a little and had to get creative with our routes. Since we weren’t going to get out on Etihad, we looked to see who else we could fly standby on and discovered Gulf Air. On them we could fly to Bahrain and on to Cairo. We talked to the Gulf Air staff and were basically told we would get on without a problem. Naturally, we did have a problem. When the time came for that flight we discovered only 1 seat was open. At this point we didn’t want to split up, but we were also out of options to fly standby on if we wanted to get out that day.

Around 8am the next morning (12 hours after landing in the AUH airport) we caved and bought confirmed tickets on Egypt Air that would get us into Cairo around 5pm. I will admit, spirits were at an all-time low during this standby roller coaster, but once we agreed to spend a little more on confirmed tickets ($280 opposed to the $70 we expected) things started to look up. Even though we hadn’t slept all night, we freshened up the best we could in the airport bathrooms, brushed our teeth, changed our clothes and put on some fresh makeup. If we were going to be stuck in Abu Dhabi, we wanted to go out and see something!

We hired a guide who took us to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the Emirates Heritage Village, and a quick lunch downtown! The Mosque itself would have been worth leaving the airport to see as it was one of the most breathtakingly beautiful buildings I have had the honor to visit. This mosque is the largest one in the country and so detailed that it left us in awe!

If you do visit the mosque here are a few helpful tips:

  • You must wear a hijab or some other headwear to cover your hair if you are a female.
  • You cannot have almost any skin showing, not even you ankles, but they will provide you with an abaya if you don’t have the appropriate attire on
  • You cannot wear shoes in the Mosque
  • The Mosque is free and open to the public!

After the stop at the mosque we made a quick stop at the heritage center which had a mixture of history and modern markets. My favorite part however was the views of the skyline available from across the water! The Abu Dhabi buildings are gorgeous!

And last but not least, our lunch downtown was so great! We ate falafel and a chicken shawarma which left our tummies nice and full before heading back to the airport to catch our flight and be off to Cairo finally, 19 hours later than expected. The moral of the story is that things can always be worse, but if you look for the silver lining in any situation, you’ll be able to make the best out of your bad luck! Even with a day cut out of Cairo, we had the most incredible visit there, so stay tuned for my post about how to make the most of 1 day in Cairo!


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