For the first time in nearly five years, I live on the same continent as one of my relatives. Not just any relative but my older brother who has been living abroad since 2001. Our time together is usually scarce, so to live in a neighboring country and not visit him was not an option. We booked the cheapest flight we could find online on an airline that we couldn’t even pronounce. Initially, we were just relieved to score a good flight deal, but then we inquired about the airline.
We researched the mystery airline listed on our itinerary as Tbilaviamsheni and found that it was a Georgian airline consisting of a single plane in its fleet. When I asked on a popular travel group, members assured me that it is the Brazilian-based TAM Airways but this was not so. Then I called the online booking company for clarity as our departure drew near. CheapOAir.com similarly couldn’t find any contact information for our airline –no phone number, no website, no office address– and could only suggest that we show up early to the airport. After hearing horror stories of passengers stranded at the airport awaiting departures from Casablanca, we started to get nervous. I found a flight schedule online listed under Mauritanian Airlines and wondered if our flight carrier was changed. The confusion was dizzying.
On the morning of our afternoon flight, I checked the Mohammed V Airport’s website for a list of their scheduled departures and saw not a single flight to Mauritania. With a confirmation number and ticket numbers, we proceeded to the airport in hopes that we wouldn’t return home defeated. I combed the flight listings on the first screen I saw in the airport and scurried to an information desk in a panic, asking about the absent flight to Nouakchott but she pointed out that I was looking at a list of arrivals and directed me to the departures screen. I anxiously found the screen and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw our flight listed on time via Mauritania Airlines. Then, the sight of full-figured, melafa-clad women draped in colorful pieces of fabric, followed by slender men wearing the dera’a, a traditional Mauritanian overgarment, gave me tremendous comfort. I knew we were on our way.
Our flight was delayed by about an hour, but we didn’t mind. We were en route and that was a relief. We were pleasantly surprised when we saw uniformed flight attendants proceed us in boarding the Mauritania Airlines aircraft. Once we boarded, there were in-flight magazines available and meals served. Unfortunately, they had not a single vegetarian meal on board and tried to offer us chicken sandwiches. Instead, a platter of bread, breadsticks, and crackers were our only recourse. With only a short two and a half hour flight ahead of us, we hoped that our family would have food waiting for us and they did. Along with the bright smiling, welcoming faces of my nieces and nephews, we had found our resting place for the week and savored every moment of our stay.