Christmas is a time laden with traditions, from roast turkeys and stuffing, to trees covered in baubles, to spoiled kids crying because they got the wrong Xbox. But for the thousands of expats across the Middle East who will be returning to their home countries to see friends and family, the true spirit of the festive period really begins with the traditional ear-bleeding pandemonium awaiting them at the departure airport.
“I’m getting excited just thinking about it all; the queues snaking around the block, the families of eight kicking up a fuss because they’re not sitting in a row, the man in a Santa hat screaming at the check-in girl because he’s missed his flight and she can’t get him onto another till tomorrow… it’s all so magical,” said Irish teacher Wanda Chittagong in Abu Dhabi.
For Dutch hotelier Holston Waart in Doha, his particular favourite festival tradition was the uncertainty of whether he’d even get on a plane and be back by Christmas at all. “Knowing that the airline has overbooked my flight just adds that element of surprise to the whole experience, much like unwrapping a gift,” he said.
“I just love it, love it, love it,” exclaimed Sandy Billingham, a British logistics manager living in Muscat. “The shouts, the tears, the mental anguish, and all for just two days at home because I’ve got to be back at work on the 27th!”
Many frequent Christmas flyers have their own particular festive ritual they perform each time they take this special annual journey.
“For me, each year I get the airport, I instantly realise I’ve left all the presents under the tree so have to buy a load of duty free cigarettes, a few boxes of dates and some giant Toberlones otherwise my family back home won’t even let me in the house,” said Canadian pharmaceuticals rep Vincenzo Chuff in Dubai. “It really is the most wondrous time of the year!”