British expatriates Dr Neha Rathod and husband Amal Daveda are thrilled to fly back to London after two years with their seven-month-old baby boy Rhiyan on June 27. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: It is that time of the year — summer vacations. Many families in UAE, who were unable to visit their home countries for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its resultant global flight and health restrictions, will be flying home for the summer holidays this year. Quite naturally, they all are excited. Airport check-in counters across the UAE are already abuzz with activity as millions of passengers get set for take-off. Most residents flying home this summer said they had booked their flights well in advance and were looking forward to that big annual family reunion.

Returning to Karachi after eight years

Human resources professional Mansoor Laghari cannot hide his excitement as he is returning to Pakistan after nearly eight years. “My wife Saima and I have a large extended family in Karachi. Although Saima and the kids, daughter Yashfa (6) and son Moiz (10), had been to Karachi three years ago, for me, it will be a real break after eight years,” said Laghari who said he was unable to travel all this while owing to his professional commitments in Dubai. “My daughter was only three years old when she last visited her grandparents and my son was seven. So, they have a lot of catching up to do with the families back home,” Laghari said.

Mansoor Laghari with wife Saif’s, daughter Yashfa and son Moiz-1655270272929
Pakistani expatriate Mansoor Laghari will be flying to Karchi with his wife Saima, son Moiz and daughter Yashfa for their summer holidays. Image Credit: Supplied

The Lagharis are flying to Karachi on June 24 and while Saima and the children will spend the two months of their summer vacation there, Laghari is planning to be in Karachi only for a week. “Ideally, I would like to stay in Karachi until Eid Al Adha, but that is looking difficult now. I plan to spend some time with our families in Karachi, but more importantly, I have to spend some time with my parents who live in a village in Sind, Larkana. I do not know how I will manage, but I want to revisit my cousins, meet my parents and scour the lanes of Karachi — all in a week. I am really longing to have the special egg burger that is available only in Karachi. Besides that, Karachi has a delectable version of chicken tikka with some signature spices and flavours. I have tried to look for this taste here in the UAE, but never found it. I am so excited about my trip. The entire family on either side is looking forward to this family reunion,” Laghari said.

India calling

The Jabbar family, meanwhile, cannot hold back its thrill of being finally able to fly to their hometown Trichur in Kerala after four years. Shajuddeen Jabbar, wife Shiny and their daughter Ashley have their bags packed already for the flight on June 25.

Jabbar told Gulf News: “This vacation is very special and dear to us as we are all homesick. The last time we visited our families in Trichur was in 2018. In 2019, my daughter was in grade 10. So we decided against travelling home that year. Then came the pandemic and the lockdowns and we were unable to travel.”

Shiny added: “I really miss the monsoon in Kerala. Everything will be so verdant green when we arrive there. I am really looking forward to it. My daughter was in grade 9 when she visited home the last time. Now she is in grade 12 and is wondering whether her grandparents and cousins will recognise her! There is so much excitement around home right now.”

Shajuddeen Jabbar with wife Shiny Shajuddeen and daughter Ashley-1655270274801
Indian expatriates Shajuddeen Jabbar, wife Shiny and their daughter Ashley have their bags packed already for the flight back home on June 25. Image Credit: Supplied

Jabbar said he was really looking forward to fun times with parents and cousins. “We are going to celebrate Eid Al Adha after nearly ten years, in Kerala. This time, my wife’s brother is also flying down from Saudi Arabia and we are anticipating a huge get-together with some delectable traditional dishes. What I particularly miss is this special jaggery and jackfruit dish called Puzhukku made of boiled, steamed and mashed jackfruit, with coconut and jaggery. It has an awesome flavour and I am looking forward to gorging on that, as well as some hot chilli pakodas in the rain,” said Jabbar

A surprise visit to the Philippines

Ion Gonzaga, 36, is flying to Manila with his wife Raquez, daughter Sophia, 10, and son Savin, 3, in the second week of July. An excited Gonzaga told Gulf News: “I am so looking forward to this trip. We have not been home for more than two years and both my wife’s parents and mine really miss meeting us. The last time we were in Manila, my son was less than six months old and my daughter was eight years old. I am so keen that the children meet their grandparents.”

The excitement is heightened by the fact that Gonzaga and his wife do not intend to inform their families about their impending visit. “It is going to be a complete surprise for both sets of parents. For the last two years, we have only met virtually on video chats. Therefore, it is going to be so joyful for them to hold the hands of their grandchildren and hug us. We want this to be a complete surprise for them,” said Gonzaga.

Ion Gonzaga with wife Raquel, daughter Sophia and son Savin-1655270269869
Filipino expatriate Ion Gonzaga will be flying to Manila with his wife Raquez, daughter Sophia and son Savin in the second week of July for their summer vacation. Image Credit: Supplied

Flying home with their bundle of joy

British expatriates Dr Neha Rathod and husband Amal Daveda are thrilled to fly back to London after two years with their seven-month-old baby boy Rhiyan on June 27. Speaking to Gulf News, Dr Rathod, a dentist at the King’s College Hospital of London in Dubai said: “My husband works for a top US-based multinational and was posted here. We came to Dubai four years ago and have been enjoying our stay here. We were able to visit London in December 2019, just as the pandemic was breaking out. After that, everything changed.”

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The couple had baby Rhyian in November 2021 and were fortunate to have the grandparents come and visit them in Dubai briefly. “However, all our extended families on either side and our friends are looking forward to meeting the new family member. My parents just cannot hold back their excitement, as they are so in love with their grandchild. It is fine that we connect over video calls, but that cannot compensate for meeting someone in person. I cannot wait to enjoy the London summers and have our son enjoy the beautiful outdoor weather in the UK,” said Dr Rathod who feels this year’s vacation for everyone going home is meant to be so very special.