x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Airlift to bring Emiratis home

Private planes dispatched to bring back Emiratis caught up in protests.

ABU DHABI // Two private planes left Cairo yesterday on a rescue mission ordered by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, to bring back hundreds of Emiratis caught up in the protests.

Any UAE nationals remaining in Egypt were being urged to go immediately to Cairo airport.

Staff at the UAE Embassy in Cairo said the phones had been ringing non-stop, and many Emiratis were desperate to get home.

Around 400 left Egypt yesterday on two planes, one at 2pm and another at 5pm.

Some Emiratis have been complaining to the embassy about transport difficulties, saying some roads have been blocked.

In severe cases, the embassy has said help would be sent out to ensure their safety.

"We are telling all callers to rent a car and come to the airport here in Cairo," an embassy official said. Other arrangements were being made for Emiratis in Alexandria, he said.

More flights are expected to be arranged for today, although the number and times were not available. All Emiratis were urged to stay in close contact with the embassy on +20 23 776 6101/2/3.

Noura al Ali arrived in the Egyptian capital on holiday on Wednesday. At that point, she said, "everything was smooth".

Two days later she found herself locked in her hotel, while her friends were stuck outside in the choking tear gas.

"We stood on the balconies to watch the protests," said Ms al Ali, 25, an Emirati government worker.

From her vantage point she could see the fire and smoke billowing across Cairo, and hear the protesters' chants. The security booth in front of the hotel was overturned.

Her friends spent five hours stuck in the protests. "The tear gas reached them in the car and they were suffocating," she said.

At night, the hotel was locked down to keep vandals out.

Early on Saturday Ms al Ali and her 13 friends left for the airport in four cars to catch a 7am flight, which was then delayed for nine hours.

"A lot of foreigners were asking if we could take them with us," she said. They helped some to get to the airport, which was packed with people, many of whom had no flights out.