A bus. We stand, balanced by smooth poles, beside a man in western clothes and two others clothed in long white dishdasha and red headpieces called a gutra. A little girl dressed in a pink kisses her jeans-garbed daddy, while mommy smiles nearby; she's covered head to toe in black. Women in niqab mingle with girls wearing pants and long, loose hair. Behind the tinted glass a red neon sign hangs in a clear,dark sky. It reads "Food Barn" - in English.
A ride around the airport. Windows, lights, palm trees in pots, exhaust, horns, squealing brakes.
At our stop, the bus empties quickly. I'm slow thanks to a tree trunk sized ankle. Katie and Kimber wait, carrying my bags and theirs too. Inside, choose: one quickly moving line for arrivals from GCC countries or three congested entrances for Other Nationalities...like us.
Yallah, yallah. Ta'allah. Hurry. Come. We are pressed forward.
A woman alone carries a baby in a basket, toddler at her side. Women in saris and jeans. Men, families. People from everywhere.
A long wait. At last, our turn.
Salaam alaykum, I say.
Alaykum al salaam, she replies.
Stand there, look here; Camera snaps, a green light flashes, becomes two letters, "OK." Your passport? Do you have a visa? Why are you here? Where are you staying?
And finally: your card? I give it to her. I don't ask "how much."
Shokran. Il awf.
Four big bags (one is Bob's) and three small loaded onto a rolling cart. We aim for a sign marked "exit" in English and Arabic. Through the door, a wide, tiled room surrounded by glass on three sides.
Behind the glass? Faces. Lots and lots of faces. Piled up one behind the other. Whoa.
We file toward a door on the other side of the wide, empty room. More faces here, only these are attached to bodies, all male. Behind them, a stream of traffic hums. Horns honk. Exhaust, gasoline smells. Hesitation. What's Dad's phone number? Kimberly says.
And then, there he is! Al humdu il allah!