Woke up at oh-dark-thirty to check out, and the front desk guy at the hotel was nowhere to be found. I eventually found him in the hotel bar asleep in a chair with his head on a table. To his credit, he woke up pretty quickly, and check-out was reasonably efficient. There was a surcharge for using a credit card, and only visa cards were accepted. As promised the night before, the hotel shuttle was waiting for us and we made the short drive to the airport in maybe 10 minutes. On the map the airport looked a long way out of town, but when I asked the shuttle driver apparently that’s the new airport being built by the Chinese…like everywhere else in Africa.
Upon entering the terminal there was an x-ray and metal detector, after which some official people with badges asked for passports and escorted is to the check-in area. Apparently there was nothing official about them at all, and they just wanted a tip for showing you where to check in. Seriously, the airport is two rooms – one for waiting and one for checking in. Did they not think we could figure it out? Eventually they went away without a tip, but they were hassling the woman in front of us pretty hard. She told them all she had was a 20 euro bill, and they took it…and eventually she realized she wasn’t getting any change. Amateur mistake!
No problems at all checking in, short wait for immigration and security, then the Angola-style “please come into this room.” I managed to get out of it, but it was the currency control room, where they tried to find money on you which you hadn’t declared…and take it. Ian got away with no issues and we got to wait in the departure haul which maybe had a couple hundred seats and was buzzing with flies and mosquitos, even at 5am. There were even a couple of stray cats to complete the wildlife scene. Eventually one of the shops opened and was selling bottles of water so we could get rid of the rest of our currency. There apparently was a Mauritania Airlines lounge, but if it’s even still in business it was very, very closed at this hour. Instead, we were treated to several people watching loud bollywood movies without headphones in the waiting area. Ugh.
Boarding eventually started about 30 minutes before departure, and was a walk across the tarmac to the plane. I tried to take my phone out to get a photo, but was quickly yelled at by one of the security guys. Ok, I get it, no photos.
Turkish Airlines flight 593
Nouakchott, Mauritania (NKC) to Dakar, Senegal (DKR)
Depart 06:00, Arrive 07:00, Flight Time: 1:00
Boeing 737-900, Registration TC-JYF, Manufactured 2012, Seat 1A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 94,894
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,284,419
The flight goes Istanbul – Nouakchott – Dakar – Istanbul, and when we boarded there were still about 50 people on the plane, headed to Dakar. Of course one of them was in my assigned seat and looked annoyed when I showed him my boarding pass. The flight attendant looked annoyed to, and just said “take any seat.” Uh, ok, score another one for Turkish Airlines.
Took off maybe 15 minutes late, but with a flight time of only about 40 minutes we arrived right on time. Nothing was offered at all to eat or drink on the short flight, and soon we arrived Dakar. It was also still mostly dark when we took off, so no real photos for this completely unremarkable sector other than a view of Dakar as we came in for landing:
The 50 people got off in Dakar, and maybe 100 more boarded, and it looked to be a nearly full flight back to Istanbul. I only saw two empty seats in business and maybe a handful that I could see back in coach. Fortunately, there was a crew change and our rather surly crew was replaced by one that only seemed mildly annoyed.
Turkish Airlines flight 593
Dakar, Senegal (DKR) to Istanbul, Turkey (IST)
Depart 07:55, Arrive 17:55, Flight Time: 7:00
Boeing 737-900, Registration TC-JYF, Manufactured 2012, Seat 3E
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 98,200
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,287,725
True to form on Turkish we had a “chef” on board. I’m pretty sure they’re just flight attendants who wear a chef’s hat and apron, but hey, it’s amusing. I usually go with the lemonade pre-departure the offer, but this flight decided to go with the orange juice. Unfortunately, the turkish delight they normally hand out with it was missing this flight:
So what’s for breakfast this morning?
Flight attendant came around with hazelnuts, which have mercifully moved from being in a bag to a bowl. Must have been some blowback from the Korean Airlines incident. When I asked for a mimosa, they looked confused. I decided to explain “can I get a champagne and orange juice.” “Oh we have no alcohol on this flight. I think it is because of the religion.” Seriously what. the. eff. I get not serving it out of Mauritania as a dry country but what is the point on a Dakar to Istanbul flight? Is it because it was the first day of Ramadan? Doubtful, as they were serving us food during the day…I was cranky, and decided I needed coffee…and another fresh orange juice:
Usual delicious turkish appetizers…cheese, pepper slices, jam, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and fruit. Super tasty…now I’m craving peppers and cheese…
The “turkish pancake” – I wasn’t very impressed with it. Found it incredibly bland with almost no flavour at all. I spread a little of the jam on it and that helped, but overall, not impressed.
Five hours flew by. Seven hours is a seriously long flight on a 737, but at least Turkish gives generous pitch in business class with plenty of room to stretch out. I killed time watching movies on my iPad, and a small snack before landing. Yes, more cheese and sliced peppers on a roll, and the delicious berry cake that Turkish often serves. Mmmm….
Overall, for a seven hour flight it wasn’t the greatest but it could have been much worse. We landed in Istanbul right on time, and I checked at the transit desk to pick up my boarding pass for the next morning. I had decided to splurge when I was in Mauritania and changed my routing home. The Turkish flight had always been planned, but then I was going to go on to Zurich for a night in Turkish business, then take United first nonstop home. Decided since there was availability to treat myself to an Istanbul to Frankfurt routing on a Turkish A330 followed by Lufthansa first home via Newark. A few hours later, the nonstop Frankfurt to Dulles opened up so I ticketed that.
First time I’ve ever seen absolutely no immigration line at Istanbul, and since we’d done the eVisa we didn’t have to wait in line at all. Quick trip through customs and a stop at Starbucks in the arrivals hall to get some caffeine in an attempt to wake up. We tried calling Uber, but after several minutes nobody had responded, so we decided to take a regular cab.
We were staying at the Gezi Hotel Bosphorus, part of Starwood’s relatively new Design Hotels collection. Normally I choose the W in Istanbul, but it’s not walkable to all that much, and the Gezi is right on Taksim Square. It was a relatively long taxi ride since traffic was heavy, and when we arrived the room wasn’t ready – because despite requesting a room with two beds they informed us they had pushed them together and made one bed. They invited us for more coffee in the restaurant while we waited, and 15 minutes later, the room was ready. We were definitely rewarded with a great view of the city:
Quick stop in the room, and then we headed out. Unfortunately, it was already 7pm at this point and although we’d hoped to wander around a bit and at least see the Grand Bazaar and maybe the Hagia Sofia from the outside, we were absolutely wiped out. We took the Tunel metro down to the water and walked around for maybe 45 minutes before admitting defeat and heading back to grab some dinner near Taksim Square.
We decided to head to Faros Kebap on the recommendation of a coworker, and life was much better after a couple of large beers…and a cheese appetizer…holy cow that’s a lot of cheese:
I went with the pistachio kebab for a main, and it was super tasty:
At this point I was a bad influence and insisted we get some raki…and of course baclava to go with it:
Short walk back to the hotel, and time to pass out at 11. That early morning wakeup call was going to come far, far too early…