Seating and cleanliness is terrible. Both terminals are appalling. Avoid this airport like the plague.
Such were the ominous headlines of some of the reviews of Jeddah airport that I read a tad too late – that is, after I had purchased my return ticket Madrid-Singapore with layovers in Jeddah airport, Saudi Arabia.
More details: long queues, immigration officials falling asleep on you (!), filthy toilets, crowded facilities, no free drinking water…True – I’d been strapped for cash when I bought the ticket, but several weeks before my trip I was wondering whether the 100 euros I had saved by picking this itinerary justified enduring a layover in what appeared to be next-to-refugee conditions.
I chickened out and enquired about cancellation costs by filling a form with Budgetair.com, the travel website I had purchased my tickets from, but never got a reply. Oh well, I resigned: Jeddah it is.
A seasoned traveler, I prepared a comfort-and-entertainment survival kit for spending 7 hours in such, let me say, sub-optimal conditions. Water and snacks, earplugs, toothbrush and paste, my e-reader with plenty of novels and travel guides, a good 15 episodes of House of Cards ready to watch offline in my mobile and, should all else fail, Fargo season 3 complete downloaded onto my laptop. I forgot a pen, though.
What a rookie traveler!, I thought as soon as I realized it was nowhere to be found and it would soon be time to fill some sort of useless arrival form.
Yet my forgetfulness proved to be providential, as trying to borrow a pen is how I started chatting with my fellow countryman Albert, who would keep me company until it was time to board my flight to the promised land.
Albert is a Primary teacher, I am a teacher trainer, therefore lots to talk about. Even more, Albert, born and raised in Mallorca, actually lives in Ibiza, a.k.a. party island. More to talk about. As it seems, unless you’re working in the tourist industry, Ibiza residents try to get the hell out of the island in the Summer – that’s if you can.
“So where are you escaping?”, I inquired.
“South Africa. It’s Winter down there. Oh and, my American girlfriend will join me there soon. What about you?”
“Singapore. Laos. Thailand.”
“Thailand? I was there once. Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai – Golden Triangle. And an island full of Spaniards called….I don´t quite remember…”
“Let me help. Koh Tao.”
“That’s right! How did you guess?”
Albert and I also shared our amusement at noticing so many people (Saudi nationals?) constantly cutting in line and, in general, trespassing on our Western personal space. At the security scans. Queuing for a basic meal at Tim Hortons. Waiting to pee at the disgusting toilets. Anywhere, really – space seemed to be a scarce resource in Jeddah and people were ready to fight for it.
So we ticked off the hours and eventually it was time for me to go. With my novels and series untouched, but with lots of stories told and heard with the excitement of the traveler who is only commencing his journey.
We exchanged emails out of politeness, and wished each other happy travels. And that was Jeddah on the outward leg of my trip. As you can imagine, the return layover was less pleasant but, fortunately, nothing to write about.