The Warm Welcome

Moments after being seated on the plane, the flight attendant handed me a towelette. This was a welcomed gesture. I could still feel the pebbles in my mouth after having walked through that dust storm at the entrance of the airport. I appreciated the thoughtfulness on the part of the airline and ripped it open.

As if on cue, the flight attendant came around to collect the now brown wipe just as I was placing it in its package. They came around two more times to give me sweets and then a beverage. This was all before the plane even moved. I had to look around to make sure I didn’t mistakenly sit in the first class section. Once I was sure I hadn’t, I thought to myself that I better fly this airline more often. I could get used to this, first class service at coach prices.

The seven-hour flight from Nigeria did not disappoint; the attendants were nice, food yummy, entertainment selections bountiful. With service this great I couldn’t wait to see what awaited me in the airlines namesake country. I was all smiles as I exited the plane and boarded the shuttle to the airport.

Passport in hand, I floated over to the customs agent and said, good evening mam how are you? Passport! She demanded, without any eye contact. I was still feeling very nice from the exquisite service I received on the plane so I smiled as I handed her my passport. She snatched it out my hand and said, look in the camera, don’t smile and don’t blink. After being ordered to do that three more times at 15 seconds a pop, my happy disposition was fading. She then asked for my credit card. In my head I am thinking she needs further verification of my identity. However, when she returned my card with a pen a receipt I realized I was being charged for something and questioned her. Still no eye contact, she informed me that I didn’t have a visa and was charged for one. I was too through. Who charges someone’s card without first letting them know?! I took a deep breath in and out, smiled, collected my things, thanked her and told her to have a nice evening. Before exiting the airport I had to go through a screening and a checkpoint, the staff there was just as “friendly”.

My friend was waiting for me in the arrivals lounge, by the time I made it to him all the happy juice was drained from my face. I gave him the short version of why I would just as soon go home. As we exited the lot, my eyes caught sight of beauty that cannot be explained. I could no longer hear the calming words coming from his mouth. I was completely taken aback. I have often heard about its beauty and wealth, but this was beyond my imagination.

As we drove down the highway in a sea of white SVU’s, I smiled out at the beautifully lit skyline and whispered… Welcome to Qatar.

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