A uniformed officer asked us what was wrong and I told him in my broken Arabic .
He asked us to wait and I saw him send two porters hack to the airplane
They came back almost an hour later without the box.
I had some experience with lost baggage since Abang Long lost a bag when we landed in Dubai .
Dubai airport is a sharp contrast to Mukalla. In Dubai the workers and officers were super efficient and everybody knew their roles . There were even employees moving around with a T Shirt on which was written Ask Me! When we reported to a porter a bag was missing they immediately asked for the baggage tickets , noted the total weight and weighed the rest of the baggage. They noted the serial number of each bag to find out which bag was missing . The bag was returned to Abang Long the next night.
So now I told the officer I wanted to make a report on the missing bag and we checked the serial numbers on the bags that were there to find out the serial number of the missing box.
By then somebody who seemed to know what to do arrived on the scene.
His name was Lotfi.
I told him we were very late since we were supposed to be at the exhibition hall of the University of Hadhramaut.
Upon this explanation he seemed to brighten up and mentioned that some people from the University had come earlier on to the airport and he had some specific instructions for arrivals from Malaysia.
He wrote a report , asked me to identify the shape and color of the box and gave me a report which I placed in my sling bag after giving it a cursory glance.
We were all set to go and went looking for a taxi when Lotfi , came to us to tell us to wait. He said the officials from the University are sending us a car to take us to the University .
I was getting a bit suspicious and did not think that anybody would send a car to get fetch us. Maybe they were thinking we were some other people.
I became even more apprehensive when the car arrived complete with an important looking official who greeted us . I am not a person who notices car makes but the car was a beige MPV . A man took our bags from us and soon we were off .
The important looking man called up Hotel Holiday Inn , asked for our passports and said something about a room booking.
He then said that we should check in first before going to the University.
Mas insisted that we go to the University first.
I took out the report that Lotfi made and the words VIP jumped out at me.
"Mas, Syifa , I think they think we are some kind of VIP s and I am sure we are not!"
I am pretty sure Mas and Syifa did not understand that I was beginning to suspect a case of mistaken identity.
There were two groups of Malaysians in Mukalla at that time. One group was part of Tun Dr Mahathir's entourage and another was from the International Islamic Fair and we belonged to the latter .
When we got to the exhibition hall, everybody was moving out because in Mukalla everything moves to a standstill between 1 pm to 4 pm , it was siesta time!
It seems that the Yemeni Prime Minister had invited all the Malaysians from both groups to a banquet at Holiday Inn.
We therefore found ourselves in Holiday Inn and Mas checked at the counter to see if we were booked there because the travel agent did mention Holiday Inn as one of the possible hotels .
Without asking any further the reception clerk asked for our passports, made photocopies and somebody came over and signed for us.
When we were shown to the room , my heart began to sink. This could not be right , The room was far too luxurious and way beyond our pockets.
We placed our bags and went for the sumptuous feast . Our table was in front of the table with the Yemeni dignitaries and we saw the Prime Minister taking his lunch. He ate with his hands, did not appear to stand out from amongst his other ministers and I was awed to see how humble he was.
I dare not weigh myself after coming back from Yemen. I like Arab food , it always reminds me of my carefree student days and the two banquet lunches provided me with far too much calories for my own good! On top of which Yemenis seem to have the typical Arab custom of feeding their guests beyond dietary requirements!
By this time the growing suspicion of mistaken identity was growing stronger. We caught up with Fiona Abdullah the travel agent and discovered our group was booked at another hotel , the Arab Sea hotel and the group in Holiday Inn was from the Tun Dr Mahathir entourage.
Who was going to pay for our room? Fiona talked to Mohamed and that was the first time we set eyes on this young Yemeni man who seemed to know a few words of Malay.
"Tiada Masalaaaah", he had said . A favourite phrase he had. He asked Mas to wait until he confirmed a room before checking out but I insisted on leaving immediately , knowing full well a night's stay at this 5 star hotel would break my budget!
At the counter I talked to the man who signed for us and told him I think there had been some mistake and we were not supposed to stay at Holiday Inn. He was gracious and allowed us to leave apologising and saying that they did not know the identity of the people who were supposed to check in because nobody had given them any names!
Mohamed came to talk to us later to confirm he had booked a room for the three of us at Arab Sea hotel and I breathed a sigh of relief!
The IIF, Yemeni people, Women Bosses, Mohamed, Wadi Doan, lost passport and more....