Horizontal in Dubai


An example of a similar venue Image source

I’m not known for toilet humour. I’m sure it has its place, but, usually, not in my blogs.

One of the undoubted reasons for this is that, when on long journeys, my wife and I are, as we describe it, somewhat ‘anally’ fixated when it comes to planning our day vis-a-vis toilet visits. We’re not talking trivial liquids, here; we’re talking the expulsion of the stuff that leaves you feeling like a member of the Adams Family if you don’t…

For this reason, on the day of travel, we rise early, get as much tea down us as possible and, if necessary, jump up and down a lot… Sometimes it works… Sometimes it doesn’t and leaves the rest of the day stretching ahead like an interminable misery. A constitutional visit somewhere over India on a Boeing ‘Dreamliner’ in economy-class? No thank you!

Some of the readers of this blog will know that we recently spent a month in Australia, visiting my eldest son and daughter-in-law, both of whom are now doctors in Adelaide. It was on the return leg of this trip that my toilet adventure occurred…

We had booked Emirates flights to Adelaide, with an outgoing stopover in Dubai of two days but only a few hours on the return leg. If you’ve travelled through Dubai airport, you’ll know that it is the size of a small city in its own right, and can easily take you forty minutes, walking flat-out, to get to your gate.


We had left Adelaide the evening before, and, arriving in Dubai after twelve hours in the sky, the local clock said it was mid-morning. We were cheered by the arrival of a set of coaches to take us swiftly to our gate – we thought… The prospect of an unhurried coffee or two and ample time to visit the facilities even brought a smile to our cynical faces.


But, as the thirtieth minute of this ‘express’ coach journey passed, we realised we were very wrong in our expectations. The bus seemingly crawled along all of the outbuildings in the airport, stopping at every entrance and exit to avoid local traffic. Did he even know the way?! We realised, with growing horror, that our onward leg to Manchester was not going to be graced by a relaxing and restoring time at the departure terminal.

Could it get worse?

Finally, after about forty-five minutes of being jogged up and down, we arrived at the ground floor of the departure building shaken and stirred, if you get my drift… There was nothing for it, we would have to locate our gate, then find the nearest loo to it and go our separate ways, meeting up, hopefully, just before departure.

Fifteen minutes later and clutching my boarding pass and cabin bag, I practically ran into the gent’s toilet… to find all but one of the cubicles taken – a testimonial to the effectiveness of the coach, no doubt. Muttering a silent prayer – a prescient thing to do, it turns out – I pushed open the door… to stand open-mouthed at the scene before me.

Those of us who, in our youth, travelled on a student NUS card with twenty quid in our back-pocket to France to sample decent wine and good cheese, may remember ‘Le Pissoir’. These small and oddly-shaped buildings in prominent places on French streets had a ceramic floor reminiscent of police drawings of a dead man at the scene of a murder. Here in Dubai, before me, was the living ghost of a Pissoir, elegantly executed in stainless steel.

I gulped, looked at my watch and realised that three of my fifteen minutes had already ticked away. What to do…? To use such a toilet, one has to squat. At sixty-two, I pride myself on some residual suppleness, but this was going to be a test. Straddling the entire device, I tried to drop my travel shorts, as one would with a conventional WC. No luck; everything jammed at the knees. I realised that the regulars in such establishments can rock back on their heels with their clothing well out of the way, but visions of a metallic-echoing backwards roll deterred me… I stood and removed the shorts and undies, grateful that they were loose and capable of being slid over the shoes. Marshalling muscles cramped by the previous twelve hours in the sky, I placed my feet in the dead man’s outline and squatted…

There is an inverse relationship between tension and ease of defecation. Those whose bathrooms sport several books will understand this well. Squatting and rocking was not calm-inducing. I looked at my watch, close to tears. Ten minutes left. I stared across at my cabin bag, desperate for anything that might help. Sticking out of the side pocket was a half-drunk bottle of water, bought, airside, in Adelaide. I was desperate. Another minute passed as I gulped the water, hoping for that treasured knock-on effect lower down.

It worked…

I will not describe the horrors of the organic expulsion. But, halfway through the purge, I realised I was not going to be able to hold the position long enough to complete the manoeuvre. In desperation, I cast around for alternative support, only to see, for the first time, a rope running along each wall. Gingerly, with a tremendous amount of activity still going on, I grasped at both and heaved a great sigh of relief that I was able to stabilise my agonised rocking.

We finished. I looked at my watch – five minutes to go…

Toilet paper. We take it for granted, really. It’s not perfect – a bidet is an essential component of our toileting at home – but it’s a lot better than a page of the Daily Mail. When the two last sheets rolled off the just-reachable loo roll, I felt like crying. I’m sure I strained my neck looking around for a spare… but no. That miserable and insufficient quantity was it.

But what was that strange device sticking out of the wall above me and to the right? I had, at first, taken it to be a cleaner’s tap. On closer inspection and with more straining of the much-abused neck, I was able to grasp it and extract it from its holder. It was what we call at home a ‘bits shower’. I could positively hear the trumpets of victory as I reached back one last time and switched on the tap, taking care to direct the nozzle downwards at the stainless steel behind my rear end. The water was luke-warm. I’d settle for that… There was no soap but with the final three minutes evaporating, I didn’t care. Two minutes later, I stood on shaking legs, clean water dripping into my underpants, and re-assembled what was left of my dignity. The toilet flushed beneath me as I departed its gleaming prison in search of soap and hot water for my abused digits.

Outside, the crush had abated and several of the cubicle doors were open. I gazed miserably into them, realising that most were normal toilets and that circumstances had forced me into an ‘Islamic experience’.

It mattered not. There were no choices in that line of fate that led me into those fifteen minutes of cultural exchange. I’m just glad there was a way out, so to speak, even if it did look like a dead man in stainless steel…

I think that’s it for toilet humour. I promise never to do it again…

©Copyright Stephen Tanham 2017.

18 Replies to “Horizontal in Dubai”

  1. Oh Man! I totally sympathise with you there! Have the same problems when visiting family in India!! Some are ‘modern ‘ our own house is fine… but there is no guarantee what toilets in other houses or places we visit will be like!! And at least that was clean… some are almost like mud hut out houses with a little basic plumbing… not easy to navigate with the voluminous salwar trousers we wear out there!!! Eeek!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. blockquote, div.yahoo_quoted { margin-left: 0 !important; border-left:1px #715FFA solid !important; padding-left:1ex !important; background-color:white !important; } Nightmare , but at least you can laugh at it now.I must say for me , I would have been bunged up until I got home 😂 xx

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh God. My bladder and bowel would have dried up and made me wait. Any possibility of putting my botty on something I’m not happy with, and that’s what happens.
    The last time I was really ‘caught short’ was at Hengitsbury Head and I had no choice but to squat in the bushes. I thought I’d never stop as th dog kept sentry duty and Hubby laughingly told anyone passing what I was doing. Great. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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