Looking for a low-budget escape from winter in Norway, I’m surprised to find that my best option seems to be a week in the United Arab Emirates. For just 350 US dollars per person, my wife and I can get round-trip tickets from Oslo, Norway to Dubai, and a room at an excellent hotel just outside Abu Dhabi (Radisson Blu Yas Island). Surely there’s a catch somewhere? To find out, we buy tickets and leave the next day.
Our flight is great. It’s a regular Emirates flight. This airline regularly wins awards, and deservedly so. The seating is comfortable and the food is decent. There’s a huge choice of new movies to watch, with a large screen and quality headphones to enjoy them with. No struggle there. I almost wish the flight would be longer.
The only inconvenient part is that we fly to Dubai airport. It would be better to fly straight to Abu Dhabi. Instead of a 15 minute ride to the hotel, it takes almost two hours to get there. Still, transfers between the airport and the hotel are included, so it’s not too bad.
It’s late, so I talk a lot with the driver to keep him awake. Like every service worker in this country, he’s not a citizen of the United Arab Emirates, yet he speaks enthusiastically about all the great marvels of Dubai. Soon a skyscraper a kilometer tall will be built. A shopping mall here is the largest in the world. Soon a new airport will open, and it will of course be the best in the world. And so on.
Asking him to elaborate on the great places he tells us about, we understand that he lacks both the time and the money to visit them. He works a lot, and he sends all the money he makes back to his family in Pakistan, who he rarely sees. We may see more of the splendors of the Emirates during the week we’ll be here than he ever will. It doesn’t feel quite right.