Flight EY83

The day started with my plane departing from Abu Dhabi, it was extremely hot, the tarmac a dusty and desolate place full of holes and construction. I could see the heat rising from the ground and this was reinforced when I touched the window next to seat 19A, it was almost too hot to touch. As we taxied the flight camera below showed our route, a beige haze as we taxied into the west. The surreal control tower was a sculpture like a giraffe’s extended neck, stood in stark contrast to the desolate appearance of the construction of a new terminal. Suddenly we were catapulted into a clear blue sky with the thrust of the engines. We were air-bound on our way to Rome.

Life in the cabin went on, dimmed lights, fresh hot towels, meals, and the inevitable screens showing movies, music, and games. As many of the passengers were from Korea, mobiles were in constant use as they watched their own talk shows and played mindless games competing with themselves.

Looking outside through the window, there was another world as the magic and mysteries of nature unfolded as we headed west to our destination. We flew north over the crystal blue of the Persian Gulf spotted with ships and the coast of vibrant countries making their existence in the inhospitable environment. We passed over the deserts of Iraq and Saudi Arabia at the request of their Governments, of course charges apply. As we slowly inched our way west, the ochres of the land below held enclaves of communities in square sand-colored settlements. They seemed to exist OK in this barren yet fascinating land below us, as we silently soared past. Roads that led to nowhere yet obviously somewhere for the people affected. This ochre land was spotted with many sizes of perfectly drawn circles in the sand. Are these oil wells I asked myself? Some had faded into the earth, others were dark grey/black like pie charts telling the proportion of oil in each well. I am not sure but by reason of deduction I came up with this explanation. These different sized circles came and went as we passed over the arid land.

On to the west we crossed the Sinai Peninsula. Oh, so much biblical history exists in the land below. The Peninsular was surrounded by the Gulf of Aqaba on the west and the Gulf of Suez on the right. There were rugged mountains with what looked like glaciers made of sand cascading down the slopes. Occasional settlements nested in the base of the slopes; it was hard to see if there were any roads linking the towns, but they may have been too small to see. We crossed the Gulf of Aqaba, which is Israel’s connection to the Indian Ocean, no ships were to be seen, strange. However, when we crossed the Gulf of Suez there were steady files of ships heading to the Suez Canal. It reminded me of 1972 when I first left Australia, I hoped to travel this route but it was blocked due to the war. Here I am now passing over it, amazing.

We continue to slowly head west into Egypt. What a sight. The mighty Nile looked so small winding its way to the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile delta fanned out giving a lush appearance of green in contrast to the neighboring deserts. We then passed over Cairo. What a huge sprawling city with the pollution giving off a reddish glow. Below I saw fields and plots with dense houses, looked like apartments but difficult to say. It was obvious that many people lived in this city and I was thinking of the history and events that have fashioned Egypt. Maybe this will be my only chance to experience this fascinating city?

We then turned slightly north and the vibrant blue of the Mediterranean Sea was below us. As we left the Egyptian coast, which was almost a straight line of white beaches, I saw what looked like dense developments facing the beaches. The sea was dotted by several lines of ships as they entered or exited from the north entrance of the Suez Canal. Such traffic linking Europe to the southern hemisphere. We continued over the sea of blue seeing an occasional small island of land. Then lo and behold we flew over Crete, rugged peaks, and patches of grey green with small villages winding around the mountains, or are they hills? Difficult to tell from this height. Memories of previous holidays in Crete flashed by together with Victoria Hislop’s descriptions of the island. On we flew skirting the southern shores of the Peloponnese of Greece, similar lands, and history.

The journey continued west then headed north into the boot of Italy. What a different land, the surrounding sea a translucent green as it came ashore. The mountains of Italy had a very distinctive shape, almost like blocks stacked on each other with some falling over to create a cascade effect. Hidden were lakes of the same translucent green with untidy villages weaving their way around the mountain valleys or lake edges. Terracotta roofs distinctive from the desert villages and those of Greece. The land was lush with distant plains of rich farmland, very neat and tidy showing cultivation over what is probably thousands of years. As we headed north over this rich land, I saw what looked like a sleeping dragon with its tail in the sea. Probably part of a volcanic ridge, I recognised it as the Amalfi coast heading to Capri. The winding road was visible, and I imagined speeding along in a Maserati with the wind in one’s hair. Another time we crawled along this road in a Green Combi van heading to the wonder of Capri with so many memories that have lasted a lifetime. To the north was the sprawling city of Naples, unruly with what seems no order, poverty, and slums with a distinctive odour is what I remember. However, this time it revealed the most spectacular volcano of Vesuvius rising from the buildings like a giant pimple. Black and green, desolate, and lush all at the same time. It showed an open section which must have occurred with the eruptions over time. They say it is still active, my imagination runs wild what if it erupted as we flew overhead? Pompeii remains a testament to its fury, I looked and looked but could not make out this tomb.

We continued north to our destination of Rome. Excitement was building in the cabin with the pilot’s announcement we would be landing soon. I continued to be mesmerised with the scenes from the window of the seat of 19A. Wow looking down we were flying over Rome. I saw the Colosseum with its incomplete circle filled with lush green grass, interestingly many of the buildings in the area were also built in the semi-circular shape and these looked like apartment buildings. Keeping up the tradition, I guess. We then continued to inch our way across Rome, over St Peter’s square, or circle with the spectacular buildings looking like doll’s houses. So different from above and yet knowing the building from inside all those years ago gave me a sense wonder. Rome is beautiful from all angles and the winding streets which appear to have no order added to the charm. What a pity I am not spending time here this trip. EY83 circled for landing giving me the most generous view of the surrounding area with grand villas and vineyards that made my heart almost stop. They are just so beautiful; I wonder if the local Italians appreciate their beauty. We descend to land and touch down on Italian soil, or tarmac. The end of the best flight I have had in ages, no temptation to watch a movie, my movie unfolded through the window.

Flight EY83 gave me an experience I will not forget. It has spoilt me for future flights as I will now always request a seat with a window. This live scene is better than a second-rate movie, however, the secret is a daytime flight at a height to see the scenes below. As I am now confined to Australia with little chance of international travel in the near future, I am lucky to have these memories to enable me to be a traveler forever.

One thought on “Flight EY83

  1. This is a terrific account of a flight from Abu Dhabi to Rome. Your knowledge of the terrain is impressive and stands in contrast to the occasional wondering or guessing the answer to your own questions. I especially appreciate the final sentence; it underscores the importance of observing and reflecting and the place of memory in this changing and challenging world.

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