Flight 6J707 to Mogadishu

Not your usual holiday destinations

Getting to Hargeisa was long and tiring, but now that I’ve arrived safely, I can look back on my journey and have a good laugh. Let me tell you a little story about Dubai Airport Terminal 2.

Most people probably have an image of Dubai International Airport as being world-class – think luxury shopping, fine dining, and five-star hotels and health clubs within the airport. Indeed this is the case – for Terminals 1 and 3,where most people pass through.

But Terminal 2 is another story. It’s like the poor cousin of Dubai Airport. This podunk terminal (separated from the other terminals by a 15 minute taxi ride) is used mostly by small, “fly by night” airlines serving, well, shit destinations – Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia and the like.

The departures board, rather than inspiring fantasies of exotic vacations to be taken, is reminiscent of the nightly news war reportage circa 2003. Half of the destinations listed are places you’ve never even heard of – where on earth is Ekaterinburg? Or Basram? Or Ashgabat? Do they have beaches there?

With a long wait ahead of me, I sat down for a coffee at Starbucks (the only retail establishment before check-in) and found myself surrounded by rough looking middle-aged red necks sporting military issue backpacks and Mississippi drawls. I got to chatting with them and discovered that they were all military contractors or workers on oil rigs and they were off to Kabul or Baghdad for work.

Everyone else in the airport appeared to be Indian or Pakistani or Iraqi or Somali, probably migrant workers, laden down with seven bulging sacks held together with duct tape and string, returning to their respective countries on airlines that may no longer be in operation by the time you read this blog post. (In a spontaneous act of kindness, I did give three safety pins to a man whose overstuffed backpack had burst.)

I became slightly nervous when my 6:00am flight to Berbera (Somaliland) on Jubba Airways did not appear on the departure board; the only Jubba flight showing was a 6:30am flight to Mogadishu (Somalia). I was warned that the airline is not the most reliable and has been known to change its flight times and even destinations at a whim. Jubba’s motto is “The Happy Way to Fly.” I was not going to be a happy camper if my flight was landing in Mogadishu (war zone) instead of Berbera (peaceful democratic enclave). Of course, it did stop in Berbera (on the way to Mogadishu) and I made very sure to get off at Berbera.

I later met a co-worker who was on the same flight. She had lived in Dubai for 14 years and had never even known that Terminal 2 existed. It seems to be the black hole where all the obscure airlines flying to “bad” destinations are relegated to.

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4 Responses to “Flight 6J707 to Mogadishu”

  1. Connie Lee Says:

    Istanbul’s airport was the only airport (of the few I’ve been in) that I truly felt was “international.” I spent some time curiously and sheepishly observing the people waiting for their flight to Jeddah. My 7 hours there allowed for some really great people watching from those all around the world!

  2. Ms. Krieger Says:

    Oh most excellent traveler,

    Just the fact that there is a commercial airline serving Mogadishu – and that you flew on it – is awe-inspiring. That Dubai Terminal 2 departures board reminds me a bit of the board in the Amman airport, but is even more exciting. Ashagabat! I have always wanted to go to Turkemnistan! Perhaps the weirdest dictatorship this side of the DPRK. (although ever since the death of Dear Leader Niyazov, Turkmenistan has gotten ever so slightly more normal…)

    Congratulations on your posting in Somaliland. It sounds very exciting. The only Somalis I know in DC are the gangsters who hang out in Tryst on Monday nights. I’ll ask them if they have any family there. Maybe I can hook you up.

    • africagrows Says:

      The Somali/Somaliland diaspora, both in bordering African countries/Yemen, as well as Europe and the US, is of course huge. Do you know where most of the Somalis in D.C. come from… are they from the south/Mogadishu? And more importantly, do they know where the party is at?

  3. I think you friend is mistaken. The people he thinks that are Somali are in fact Ethiopians because DC is known to have the largest Ethiopian people in North America. Whereas Somalis are known to be in Minneapolis, followed by Columbus ohio. Though there are consirable number of Somalis in DC, but nothing like the ones in the aforementioned cities.

    Finally, the DC Somalis are known to be the earlier comers to America. The average time they been here in America is like 25 years. They tend to be well off and highly educated since they were sons and daughters of diplomats and political refugees.

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