Coronavirus: What it's like to return to Abu Dhabi after five months away

Mina Aldroubi left the capital on March 6 for a two-week holiday. She returned to the UAE on August 10

Mina Aldroubi returns to the UAE

Mina Aldroubi returns to the UAE
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As I packed my bags to leave Abu Dhabi on March 6, I only prepared myself for a two-week visit to London.

Little did I know that I would end up staying there for five months.

There was a lot of uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic during the first week of my trip but one thing I did not anticipate was that most flights around the world would be grounded, including in the UAE.

Many people were left stranded overseas as countries around the world sealed borders to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Despite the stress, I was fortunate that my parents and I were safe in London.

Anxious to return to my life in Abu Dhabi, I contacted the UAE Embassy in London for assistance.

They advised me to apply for permission to return through the Twajudi service for residents, which the country rolled out in late March to help people stuck overseas.

My first two attempts were rejected in late May and July.

“We apologise for not fulfilling your request due to the incompatibility of the request with the requirements for entry to the country,” read the email.

I was disheartened but determined, and as they say, I was lucky the third time.

I finally got the approval to return on July 20.

I had 21 days to return to the UAE and had to take a Covid-19 test at an accredited clinic in London’s Euston Square.

The test was negative and I booked my flight.

The past five months in the UK were spent making Zoom calls, working from home and, of course, shopping online, which meant I had a lot of things to bring back.

I packed my suitcases and made my way to Heathrow Airport on Sunday afternoon to catch my Etihad flight back to Abu Dhabi.

It was surreal entering the terminal. There were just a few passengers at the check-in desk.

I cleared the security checks in 10 minutes - which is unbelievable if you are travelling from London.

I was a little nervous and did not know what to expect.

It was 35°C in London but I was told to wear my face mask at all times inside the terminal.

The Etihad staff checked the temperature of all passengers before they were allowed to board the flight.

“Please madam, can you stand to the side to cool down because your temperature is above 37 and we can’t allow you to board the flight,” a staff member told me.

My heart skipped a beat and I panicked as all worst-case scenarios came to the mind.

They checked my temperature again and I was let on after a 10-minute wait.

The arrival process was very smooth.

I had to take another Covid-19 test at the terminal and got the results in less than 11 hours.

I was finally back in Abu Dhabi on Monday August 10, a place I have called home for the past three years.