A newly wed wedding couple wants to fly home from their honeymoon in Mexico in mid-March – and ends up in the Maldives after an odyssey due to the corona pandemic. Since then it has been waiting desperately to be able to go home.

A walk on the light sand on the beach, souvenir photos under palm trees, a fruit cocktail while your feet dangle in the warm water. Stranded on an island in the Indian Ocean , open-ended. What sounds like a dream is now an unbearable situation for Peri and Chalid. “It’s getting harder and harder,” says Peri.

Wedding with friends and family in Egypt, honeymoon in Mexico, then back to everyday life in Dubai – that was the couple’s plan in early March. “When we left, Corona wasn’t too big a deal,” says Chalid. 

From Istanbul there was only one option: the Maldives

The departure from Cancun in Mexico on March 19 is still going smoothly. But on the plane, the couple received messages from friends: “How do you want to get back to Dubai?” The UAE Ministry of the Interior has announced an entry ban for foreigners with permanent residence in the Emirates. 

“We only really understood the extent of the problem after our stopover in Istanbul ,” says 36-year-old Chalid, who works as a telecommunications engineer in the state on the Arabian Peninsula. He and his wife Peri (35) are on the phone with friends, UAE authorities and the Egyptian embassy. “Please be patient,” they say. If you try to take the connecting flight, you will be rejected and your boarding passes will be withdrawn. 

Chalid and Peri are stuck at Istanbul Airport. One more day. No information about when to continue, no luggage. “The situation was very chaotic,” says Chalid. Without a boarding pass, the couple cannot even go shopping in the airport shops. 

Nine passengers on the plane to the Maldives

Because flights to Egypt are also suspended, Chalid and Peri need a replacement plan. Which destinations are still served? And which of them are possible with an Egyptian ID? The only solution after staying for days and doing research at the airport: the Maldives .

“We didn’t even think about it,” says Chalid on the phone. “We just wanted to finally have a bed and our belongings again – and a shower.” Nine of them are sitting in the huge plane that she will fly to the archipelago in the Indian Ocean in mid-March. They have been stranded there for more than two months. “Nobody takes you seriously when you complain about a never-ending stay in the Maldives,” says Chalid.

But what may seem like a dream to some actually has little to do with a second honeymoon: In response to the first proven corona infections in the capital Malé in mid-April, the authorities ordered a curfew for the region. Ship traffic between the islands is prohibited, hotels are not allowed to accept guests. It can be assumed that most of the resorts would be closed when the last guests left them, writes the Foreign Office.

14 rooms in six different hotels

“The last guests” – this includes Peri and Chalid. One hotel after the next closes. The couple keeps a tally: since the beginning of March they have unpacked and packed their suitcases in more than 14 rooms in at least six different hotels. “We are warmly welcomed in every hotel before it closes shortly afterwards,” says Chalid. Every morning the reception calls and asks: “When are you leaving?”

But leaving the Maldives is virtually impossible at the moment. Commercial flights from Malé International Airport have been temporarily suspended. “And even if there were flights … we wouldn’t come home,” interjects Peri.

They are brought from island to island with small seaplanes or boats when changing hotels. Every transport has to be paid for. The credit card will also be charged with costs for exclusive rooms. The couple, who have been together for eight years, have saved money for life together. But the savings are now gone, the fear of the growing mountain of debt meanwhile “greater than all Covid worries”, as Peri says.

The nightmare could be over by June 1st

The two recently moved into an isolated “emergency shelter”. The holiday complex on the island of Manadhoo offers “luxurious villas in turquoise water”. The Marketing Director and her husband work here as well as possible. If necessary at the computer in the reception. Because jobs are rare in honeymoon hotels. 

From June 1st, foreigners with a residence permit should be able to re-enter Dubai with a special permit. Until you have this you cannot book a ticket. “We don’t regret flying here. It was the best we could do in the situation,” says Chalid. “But we want to go home.”

Emily Wong

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