The journey there was long and tiring. Because I relied on donour money to get to Taiji, I chose the cheapest flight option. Ironically enough, the cheapest option was with an airline which was supposedly voted the best airline in the world: Qatar Airways. Granted, the pilots that flew my flights were really good. There was hardly any turbulence and the landings were gentle and smooth. The in-flight service left me more than a little frustrated.
Despite triple checking with my travel agent that all meals be vegan (with strictly no animal products whatsoever) and confirming with the ground staff again upon my arrival in Doha, on each leg I had to explain that “no, it wasn’t a late request, it was a Qatar Airways mistake”, all my meals were vegetarian. Meals either contained eggs or dairy products or both. The in-flight staff were always extremely apologetic and went out of their way to try and cater to my needs. On the leg from Cape Town to Doha, they even offered me a vegan crew meal. Needless to say I felt very guilty about denying another vegan a meal but they assured me there would be enough to eat for the crew member. On the other legs, although trying to be helpful, crew members had difficulty understanding NO lacto and NO ovo. I suppose at least they tried. But it was frustrating. I hate feeling that veganism is a special need for which people have to go out of their way. It’s not. Most meals contain vegetables of some sort already. Take out all the meat and animal products and you have a vegan meal. It ain’t brain surgery. Seriously.
The flight to Doha was 11 hours and ten minutes. I did manage to get some fitful sleep. Unless you travel first class, sleeping in an economy seat will always remain a challenge (unless of course you are a serious narcoleptic!). I wasn’t too concerned because I had an 18 hour lay over in Doha and the airline assigns you a hotel as part of the package if your lay over exceeds a certain amount of hours. The hotel would afford me some much needed sleep and a much needed shower. So I wasn’t to perturbed by the quality of sleep I would get on the plane.
Doha airport of course was a whole different challenge all together. There are three different categories of passengers, of which I can only remember two: blue (can’t remember), yellow (transfer and arrival) and maroon (priority travelers such as premium members or first class flyers). A bus would drop you off at the respective coloured terminals. My ticket was yellow.
The arrival/transfer hall was nothing short of an absolute cluster f…..mess. I have travelled in Africa where the concept of a queue is yet to be introduced and understood. I remember distinctly what could only be described as a human stampede of epic proportions at the airport in Nairobi in Kenya. Nairobi couldn’t even begin to compare to the arrival/transfer hall in Doha airport. I politely and patiently positioned myself in the throng of people thinking that somehow all the hundreds of people would respect and honour my position. Thank God I am not a gambling woman because I couldn’t be more wrong if you paid me to be.
There was one security guy in the vicinity and impatient, tired travellers all converged on him like a pack of rabid hyenas on a lone prey. They all nattered at him in a cacophony of different languages, brandishing tickets and passports. I tried hard to maintain a calm composure and it took a lot of willpower not to grab them by the scruff, one by one, and yank them in to line. Humanity – what more can I say, right?
The over stimulus of noise and bumping and impatience finally wore me out. I was tired, stinky, impatient and most definitely not in the mood to deal with chaotic over stimuli. I had to get out. I grumpily pushed my way out of the crowd to the Qatar Airways Service Desk in the only deserted spot in the hall. Turned out it was the right decision. The semi-friendly staff issued me my transit visa and hotel voucher. Again I asked them to please please PLEASE ensure that ALL my meals on ALL my flights were vegan (NO lacto and NO ovo). By the time I got to passport control, most of the desperate crowd had dissipated.
The humourless Qatari immigration agents stamped my passport and I was finally, after an 11 hour plus flight (which was a half an hour late in arriving), free to enter Doha.