Dubai Airport’s Terminal 2 a Gateway to the Troubled Reality for Millions
Written on Saturday, February 4. In the global race for airport convenience, services, aesthetics and comfort, Dubai International Airport (DXB) far outpaces air terminals across the world. Fly into Terminal 3, and you understand why Emirates makes money hand over fist. Terminal 1, for the rest of us, and where I arrived on my Delta Airlines flight, is a spectacular venue. And then there is Terminal 2. Terminal 2 is the ugly stepchild spawned by the black sheep of the aviation terminal family. At least that is what the blogs told me as I sorted out how I would commute to my flight Saturday evening to Doha, Qatar, on flydubai. While the Dubai Metro serves Terminals 1 and 3, Terminal 2 was completely ignored by the local rail authorities, unless you are willing to walk the 1.8 kilometers from the nearest green line station. If you believe what is on the blogosphere, Terminal 2 will find you plunked dubious characters, migrant workers and the sad and the cheap who will not or cannot shell out the fares for Emirates or other carriers. Like me. Well, hanging out at Terminal 2 has been a pleasure, as I type this at the Costa Coffee across from Gates 5 and 6. True, the airport marquees read like a who's who of the humanitarian aid and international development worlds: destinations include Kabul, Khartoum, Addis Ababa, Alexandra, Damascus, Baghdad, and Erbil. They are places most of us only read about in the news, are currently riddled with strife or are the source of the laborers and hired help that have built Dubai and the United Arab Emirates to what it is today: the pride of the Gulf Region. But hanging out at Terminal 2 has been an absolute pleasure. Sure there are the modern conveniences like the McDonald's coffee (7 dirhams and of course I had a cup) and the duty free shop with a large selection of alcohol and Emirati bobble-head dolls. But the terminal also has a 1980s and 1990s vibe to it--yet still outshines some decrepit California airports like LAX. Hard working folks in all sorts of dress, many of whom look exhausted, relieved or apprehensive--or all of the above, sit in the bright yellow chairs, ready to board the buses that will take us to our flights across the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. One benefit of Terminal 2 for all of us here is that if you time your arrival well enough, the time it takes from the issuing of your boarding pass to exiting customs and immigration will take all of 10 minutes. Once you are here, the terminal is a feast for the eyes and ears--right now I'm watching a Zamboni floor cleaner wipe the terminal as the late afternoon Muslim call to prayer ricochets through the terminal. So true, Terminal 2 is a gateway to troubled parts of the world, and people watching here is a sobering experience, a world away from the convivial atmospheres of Dubai's ridiculous malls and posher airport terminals 1 and 3. But despite our different backgrounds, my time spent here at Terminal 2 has been an afternoon well spent. After all, at a core level, people are all the same. Acknowledge folks with a simple nod or smile, and you will score one back. The mosaic of cultures in which I have been immersed for a couple hours has been a highlight of my trip here to the UAE and Middle East.