The happy couple wed in Egypt’s capital Cairo on March 6, in front of their friends and families.
They dated for eight years after first meeting, 36-year-old Khaled and Peri, 35.
A few days later, the Dubai-based newlweds left for their honeymoon in Cancún, Mexico. Coronavirus seemed like an unnecessary worry, as it had yet to fully spread and become a headline around the globe.
So while the traveling couple were careful to avoid crowded places and unhealthy situations, they “never expected” travel restrictions to hurt their plans.
Change in Plans
But by the time they were ready to return home to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with a stop through Turkey in mid-March, the full threat has become known.
“While we were on the plane we had access to internet and then we started getting messages from people ‘Are you going to be able to get to Dubai? There’s a new law, they’re banning expats,'” Peri told news sources.
Since they were already in the air, they assumed they would be allowed to continue traveling. But when they tried to board their next flight in Istanbul, they were informed they could not board.
The new rules had been enforced just as they set off from Mexico.
The couple were left stranded at the airport for two days.
Restrictions in Turkey meant they were not permitted to leave the airport and enter the city.
Travel Got Complicated
Without a valid boarding pass they struggled to buy toiletries and clothes, and were not even allowed to collect their luggage.
Unable to enter the UAE, and with flights to Egypt suspended, they needed to create a new plan.
“We decided to go on Google and check all the countries that allowed Egyptians without a visa, and then check if they had flights,” Peri said.
They only had one option: the Maldives.
A set of islands with white sand and turquoise water in the Indian Ocean, renowned as one of the most beautiful destinations in the world.
“I remember that moment we were let through immigration,” Peri recalled.
“We looked at each other and we were very happy that at least we would be sleeping in a bed as opposed to airport seats!”
Khaled, a telecommunication engineer, said, smiling: “We were so happy to see our luggage.”
But once the immediate emergency had been resolved, new challenges appeared.
“We started realizing there is a major financial burden, our jobs – we wouldn’t be able to perform them well. We didn’t pack our laptops,” said Peri, who works in media. “When you’re on honeymoon you don’t expect to be working much.”
Upon reaching their island resort the newlyweds realized they were amongst only a few remaining guests, most of whom were waiting for their departing flights.
Soon the last remaining guests left and the resort decided to shut down. The weary couple were sent to another island, where the same thing happened.
The newlyweds have now spent the last month in a special isolation facility set up by the Maldivian government at a resort on Olhuveli island.
The surviving couple is grateful to the authorities, who are charging a discounted rate, and to the resort staff for their support.
“They’re doing their best to actually make this a nicer experience for us…”
In the evening, they play music, they have a DJ every day, and sometimes we even feel bad because nobody’s dancing,” Khaled said. There are almost 70 others mis-placed survivors at the resort, many also honeymooners.
Both are also back at work, but struggle to connect via wi-fi to conference calls.
But getting home is not simple. They are residents of the UAE, but not citizens, so they say they were not permitted onto flights returning to the Gulf.
Flying to Egypt on a repatriation flight could have been an option, but it would have meant a 14-day quarantine in a government facility – and still not being unable to return to their home in Dubai.
They are calling on the UAE authorities to help them and other residents who are stranded.
And, in any case, no flights are currently available.