I have been to a number of airports in my ancient existence (okay, not that many), but Pakistan’s always stands out to me. It isn’t huge, or terribly modern, or spacious. The marble, probably once very fashionable, is now discoloured due to the sheer amount of use, and has created colour scheme reminiscent of the Seventies.
Also, unlike many other airports, there aren’t walls and walls between you and the outside world. Immigration and baggage claim share the same space, separated only by people and one glass partitioning wall. As you collect your baggage, you can see the outside, and your loved ones waiting for you.
This time, we arrived early – at six in the morning (an unachievable time for me unless, as was the case this morning, I had been awake all night as well). Immigration, shockingly, took almost no time and mum and I were astounded more by this than by the rest oft he previous day’s events put together (- those being getting to the airport a little late, legging it through security checks and to the gate in Manchester, actually liking the vegetarian food on the flight, simultaneously watching Jodhaa Akbar on two separate screens, and watching people try to sort out their seating situations in families of over six – with all of them talking at once).
So we got out of the airport with plenty of time to spare, and sat in the marble arrivals area (open to the sides but covered at the top), and waited for our family.
It’s interesting how airports can work on us psychologically. For my part, the chance to stand for a while and just look around at people was quite enjoyable. It was mostly empty due to how early it was. I didn’t want to flash my phone about so I didn’t take pictures, but I will try to describe things. To the left and right of us were escalators heading up to Departures. There were a few stalls here and there, one to the right sold watches and such things; another, to the left, was a newsagents with bottles of water and newspapers on sale. The majority of people looked a little haggard, mostly because at that point it was mostly taxi drivers experiencing the lull of arrivals. One man was sat on the floor by a pillar in front of us. At first I wondered why he would sit there instead of off to the side, until I realised he was charging his phone with a plug socket in the pillar. He wore a large kaftan to keep the heat in.
– Let me just be clear: it was about sixteen degrees celsius. Mum and I were counting our blessings for the mild weather, to us it was warm enough to enjoy without sweating, but that could easily change if we had to move too much. Most people there were marvelling at how cool it seemed.
Moral of the story: Mum and I aren’t good with heat.
Problem: We’re in Pakistan. Heat happens. –
Within half an hour my uncle, his wife, and my two aunts arrived to pick us up. In our family we are huggy people, and so the embraces continued for several minutes, with the usual catching up, until we all piled into my uncle’s car. There were four of us in the back, with my perched a little precariously on the edge.
I say precariously. As we drove we passed by an open backed car, like a pick up truck. In the back, about eight people were sat, quite calmly. And on the outside, holding on to the edge with only his hands, and kneeling on an outside rail as they drove on the motorway, was a boy aged about ten.
We all gaped and laughed, my mum and I mostly in shock and concern, and our family at us.
It didn’t take much time at all to get to my uncle’s. On the way I was told how, maybe up to a year earlier, there had been a terrorist attack on the airport, and since then security has been stepped up there. People aren’t allowed to drive straight up to arrivals if there’s more than one of them – my family got round this by being affectionately honest about picking up their sister. I suspect that three hijabed women, and only one man, doesn’t make for a very intimidating or threatening image.
Shall tell you more in the next post.