It all started with a wedding in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on March 6: eight years after their first meeting, Khaled and Peri, 35, 36, married in front of their friends and families.
A few days later, the Dubai-based couple left for Cancún, Mexico, with barely any concern in the world: the coronavirus seemed to be a distant concern, as it had not yet spread around the world.
So while the couple took care to avoid crowded places, they say they “did not expect” travel restrictions to affect their plans.
But by the time they returned home to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) via Turkey on March 19, the full scale became apparent.
“While we were on the plane, we had internet access, and then we started receiving messages from people” Will you be able to go to Dubai? There is a new law, they ban expatriates “,” Peri told the BBC.
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However, since they were already in the air, they assumed that they would be allowed to travel. But when they tried to board their connecting flight to Istanbul, they were told that they could not board.
The new rules came into effect the moment they left Mexico.
The couple were trapped at the airport for two days. The restrictions in Turkey meant that they were not allowed to go out and enter the city.
Whereas, without a valid boarding pass, they struggled to buy toiletries and clothing, and were not even allowed to collect their luggage.
Unable to enter the United Arab Emirates and with flights to Egypt suspended, they needed a plan.
“We decided to go to Google and check all the countries that allow Egyptians to have visas, and then check if they had flights,” said Peri. It seemed like they had only one option: the Maldives.
Set of islands with white sand and turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is recognized as one of the most beautiful places in the world. Khaled and Peri had even considered going there for their honeymoon instead of Mexico.
However, on this occasion, it was not the prospect of the beaches and the possibilities of snorkelling that most excited the couple.
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“I remember that time when we were let through immigration,” recalls Peri. “We looked at each other and we were very happy that at least we were sleeping in a bed as opposed to the airport seats! “
Telecommunications engineer Khaled said with a laugh, “We were so happy to see our luggage. “
But once the immediate stress of finding housing was resolved, new challenges presented themselves.
“We started to realize that there was a major financial burden, our jobs – we would not be able to execute them properly. We didn’t pack our laptops, “said Peri, who works in the media. “When you’re on your honeymoon, you don’t expect to work much. “
Upon arriving on their island, the couple realized that there were only a handful of guests, most of whom were awaiting their return flight.
While the others were leaving, the hotel closed, and the couple were transferred to another island, where the same thing happened.
They spent the past month in a special isolation center set up by the Maldivian government in a resort town on the island of Olhuveli.
They are grateful to the authorities, who charge a reduced rate, and to the staff of the complex.
“They are doing their best to make it a more pleasant experience for us. So in the evenings they play music, they have a DJ every day, and sometimes we even feel bad because no one is dancing, “said Khaled.
There are around 70 other people in the station, many of whom are also newlyweds. The only difference, according to Peri, is that the others “chose the Maldives as their honeymoon destination – we didn’t do it.”
Almost 300 tourists remain in the Maldives, which has now prevented the arrival of new visitors. But while there may be far worse places to lock out, the couple are desperate to return to Dubai.
They say they only managed to visit the beach “a few times”, partly because of the heavy rain during the current monsoon, and also because they fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
The two are also back at work, but have trouble connecting via Wi-Fi to conference calls.
But coming home is not easy. As residents of the United Arab Emirates, but not as citizens, they say they were not allowed to fly to return other people to the Gulf.
And while flying to Egypt on a repatriation flight could have been an option, it would have meant 40 days in a government facility – and still unable to return home to Dubai.
They call on the UAE authorities to help them and the other stranded residents. They asked for permission to travel from the official government portal, but have still not received the permission.
And, in any case, no fight is currently available.
“It becomes more and more stressful every time we read in the newspapers that the airlines postpone the date of their return to service … We will certainly do whatever we are asked in quarantine, whether in a hotel or in a house of auto-quarantine, “says Peri.
Regarding the cost of setting up the trip, the couple decided “not to do the calculation before our return, because we do not know when it will end”.
Yet they know that other people around the world are in far more difficult positions. But they point out that the trip was far from a long honeymoon.
“It’s always sad when you’re in a resort and you’re the last guest there, and all the staff say goodbye. You feel bad for them too… it happened to us twice, ”said Khaled. “Places like this should be full of people and good times, it isn’t happening right now. “
“Whenever we tell people that we are stuck in the Maldives, they laugh and they say ‘this is not the worst situation, I wish I could be in your place’,” added Peri. “It’s not as easy or happy, it’s really very stressful … enjoy being at home with the family. I would take this on anything. “