It’s been a truly exhausting voyage I have managed to complete, after nearly a year of planning and six months of intensive travelling across Africa and the Middle East! Before I begin, I want to extend a sincere thanks to the countless number of porters, co-travellers, locals, agents, writers and chieftains, without whose expertise and insight I wouldn’t have experienced the magic of Africa and the Arabian Gulf at its fullest!
All I can say after a gruelling trip to so many places, is that despite an overwhelming amount of advice against travelling to this part of the world, with fear and worries over violence and the Ebola scare still active, I decided to put my love for adventure before my fears and chose to undertake the trip. And I can vouch today that it has been completely worth all the extra trouble, the nervousness, the mosquito bites and the infinite levels of cultural embarrassment I suffered as a non-native in this strangely beautiful part of Earth!
And true to this eye-opening trip, the raison d’etre behind this post is also an incident that followed the pattern and broke long-established stereotypes in my head about the Middle East and its people in general.
This happened during the last leg of my expedition. Tired and deprived of sleep after my experiences, I had ended up in a long line of check-ins to catch my connecting Saudi Arabian Airlines flight to Jeddah, where my other co-travellers would join me in returning to Riyadh.
Already jet-lagged due to the road trip I undertook to get here in the last 3 days, I quietly found a seat at the boarding area and fiddled around on my tablet, boarding the flight amid a handful of passengers when the time came, the Arabian signage of الخطوط السعودية glistening atop the gates. But it was only on-board when the incident occurred.
It started when the cries of a child woke everyone up an hour or so into the flight. Still accustomed to one time-zone, I was drowsy when I opened my eyes and stood up to investigate. It seemed that the child of a young couple was bawling his eyes out. The poor mother couldn’t do much except try calming him down, even as some muttered rather insensitively on how noisy the boy was.
With lightning speed, I saw a hostess rush past me. She reached the mother, asked her a few questions and ran back to the pantry. It was only when she returned with a food tray and effortlessly quietened the boy, feeding him with the mother’s help. Now I am no expert at medicine, but a few close looks at the boy indicated that he looked older than his clothes portrayed. It was only on asking the hostess that the truth hit me with the force of so much overwhelming pride that I couldn’t contain my smile; the child was autistic, which is why the hostess had rushed to get one of the airline’s specialized meals for autism patients.
I know plenty of readers may not find much value in the story, but the fact that such sensitivity can be seen in a global brand like this shows that we have much to learn about hospitality and understanding of one another. Kudos to Saudia and its impeccable principles! Hope to keep witnessing such incidents of spotless humanity!
This is a post by a guest blogger