Again? Do I bring bad luck? On my previous flight they also needed the assistance of a “doctor on board”. Where last time this was neatly handled to everyones liking, this time not as much. I guess, the unwell lady’s husband gets up in his dark robe with a dark cape that covers most of his face. He clearly does not agree that the male doctor, who wants to help the woman, must touch the completely covered woman. I have never seen such a robe before… it reminds me of a medieval robe in which people perform rituals and make sacrifices by flares centuries ago deep in the woods. Anyway, at least it doesn’t do any good to the situation and that’s what the stewardesses try to make clear. After the negotiations have been concluded and the doctor instructs the stewardess from a distance what to do, the woman can be saved. The saying of the Prophet Mohammed which was quoted for the sake of a good flight apparently does not cover individual health issues.
We arrive in the United Arab Emirates. Quite honestly; not the destination I have longed for all these years. What makes me happy are old cities, old cultures, basics… and Dubai, the place where the plane puts its wheels to the ground, is anything but that. The hyper modern city kicks in like a Thai-boxer. Every skyscraper seems to want to outdo the other (which in reality probably comes down to: “multimillionaires wants to beat each other with their turrets”). Anyway, it’s fair to say that it’s interesting to see this modern violence in real life… and it’s quite impressive. Especially the fountain shows in the evening! Every half hour the fountain tosses the water high in the air to the sounds of smooth criminal, classic or Arabic masterpieces while in the background the skyscraper with its entire 829 meters dances along in LED. Okay, that’s cool… if you can enjoy it unhindered. “What are you doing?”… “…Well taking a picture, Mr. Security”. “not allowed”… “Okay… and why?”… “looks professional” … Aight; now I’ve lost you. Outcome: taking pictures is allowed, even with a more proficient camera, but the EUR50 tripot (standard for the camera) is not allowed. Quite peculiar, but it seems to be a real thing in Dubai, proven by the fact that I see another security man repeating the same thing a kilometre further down the road. Okay, it’s late anyway, so let’s go back to my student flat. The pricey guesthouse, in the middle of a skyscraper, with fancy PR pictures, gives me that student flat fibe. The cute labrador in the apartment fortunately brings a little atmosphere.
``if you ask me -the highlight of Abu Dhabi``
The city is remarkable… When I enter the Dubai Mall and wander around, because it still is the largest Mall in the world and I still want to check my must sees, I find out that the sky is really the limit in Dubai. If you can image it, you can achieve it. It is this mindset that must have continued impeccably during the construction of the 1200 covered shops and 150 restaurants. A complete underwater world is waiting for me, not to mention an absolute must for every shopping mall to have: an olympic-sized ice skating rink! Rented a car and ran away. Madness!
Nice … the freedom of having your own transport again. And I can’t say anything about the way this country has managed its infrastructure. My compliments to all drivers there too. Neat, no shitty behaviour and people give each other space. A relief after 2 weeks of honk-crazy-Jordan. All right; went all the way to the beaches of Abu Dhabi! Maybe a coincidence, but why is the whole beach empty, with the exception of one lady? Probably due to the fact that I had climbed over a fence to take a shortcut to the beach. Private beach? Well, at least the 7 lifeguards don’t seem to have any problems with it: some bronzing before the sun goes down and the Grand Mosque is the next stop on the agenda. It’s still magical… and anyone who knows me by now knows that I have a soft spot for sunsets. When the marble-white walls of the mosque get a golden colour and the prayers can be heard through the speakers, the world stops for a moment and it confirms that it was the right choice to make the 2 hour drive to the capital … if only to be able to feel the largest carpet in the world under your feet! Those little rascals snatched this honorary title from the Grand Mosque in the capital of neighbouring Oman. My next destination which I will reach by bus from Dubai after 3 days in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. An excellent option which takes you to Masqat, the capital of Oman, in about 7 hours. At no extra cost at all, they prolong the 7 hour ride by 63% due to ‘hassle’ at the border and after 11 hours we reach the centre of Masqat in the middle of the night.
Okay bye taxi driver?! The yellow car disappears into the darkness of the night at an unseen speed, together with my change. What a *$%#^! But I have myself to blame; I violated my own basic rule of giving taxi drivers the money while sitting in the car, after you have put the bags outside first. Well, in the end I can laugh about it; the man smelled his opportunity and earned 10 euros extra, just like his tyres smelled during the sudden start of his flight sprint. You little rascal! Lessons learned: stick to your own rules and don’t trust all well-dressed-in-white men.
``the 2-wheel drive is exchanged for something the offroad can handle.``
Sometimes you just don’t have your day. We all know the feeling; you get up with a sense that hell is going to break loose that day without any reason. Meanwhile you just hear the birds whistling outside. Day 2 in the Sultanate of Oman: alarm clock decides to go on strike, headache seems to work. The reserved rental car at the airport is not available on arrival due to a technical computer malfunction. The taxi ride to the airport has no change but after a 10 minutes discussion magically it does, the taxi ride back to the hotel is 3 times as expensive as the taxi ride to the airport… not a chance I’m gonna pay for that – took the bus. The internet in the hotel room doesn’t work and the grumpy receptionist who sits behind his sixties computer growls that the lobby is not meant to be used for sleeping (huh? Because of your internet problem, which you don’t want to fix, I’m sitting downstairs to take care of things and sitting downstairs isn’t sleeping as far as I’ve checked). What a hopeless and lost day. At such a moment you miss being able to unleash your frustration on your travel buddy, but there isn’t one. Well, that’s also part of the “solo travel”. Just smile and go on; positive thinking and the world will slowly change back into the positive world that you know. At the end of the day I end up going to town for some culture sniffing and there I meet a Romanian man who, as one of the few, is also in passing through Oman. The country is not very well known among the tourists and for that reason you don’t see many tourists (yet). Nice evening. Good discussions. Nice spots.
``the environment forces you to take a picture almost every three seconds.``
Full speed to Nizwa the next day! Oh no, not at all! Switch to the turtle mode in Oman! Anyone who can name me a country with more speed cameras and speed bumps will receive the chocolate speed camera award from me. My God, I’m not exaggerating when I say that some areas have 4 speed cameras within 3.5 km. How? Why? And… alley – or highway; they don’t care, they just keep on setting the speed bumps.. everywhere!! 95% of those speed bumps are neatly marked with a sign, and at 5% you have flying lessons. Anyway, Nizwa. Cool! Imagine you’re walking around in a Disney fairy tale with yellow castle-like houses all around you with a cool castle which marks the center. Dozens of corridors lit by twilight and the fish, meat, vegetables and goat market in full swing. This is why I love smaller cities so much more than capital cities! Enjoying dinner in the evening at one of the local stands and then getting lost in the narrow alleys again. Iit almost hurts when, after 3 days I leave to temporarily swap my 2 wheel drive rental car into a 4 wheel drive car. It’s off-road time to Jebel Shams, a rugged area with the highest mountain in the country. Let the engine roar on the steep gravel dirt roads up and down the mountain. With 2 sweat drops more than usual, triggered by the occasional deep ravines adjacent to the off-road mountain passes, I reach the camp where I will be staying for the next 1.5 days. The camp leader, alias owner, alias self-appointed campfire guru who manages to turn every 2 or 3 sentences of the conversation into the fact that a campfire will be made that evening, welcomes me warmly with Arabic coffee and a kind of fruit that is claimed to be good for strong legs. Ah, since I have planned a good hike over the Balcony trail that afternoon, I take the campfire guru’s word for it and take it. After the flip flops have been exchanged for hike shoes the trail surprises me by the cool views, the deep ravines and high peaks. A slice of nature that tempts you to press the camera button 3 times every minute. Stunning. You feel the force of nature in which you are allowed to be a spectator. You can also see the dark dropping rapidly when the clock has passed 5pm. S***, lost track of time a little bit… and as I can estimate, the track back will take at least another hour and fifteen minutes. Good estimate, well done! With a 30 minute climb back in the dark, albeit with a small light to stay on the path instead of falling into the ravine, nature seems to have granted me mercy and I reach my 4×4 again which takes me back to the camp after some off-road fun in the dark. It will give you an adrenaline rush! Trust me. Better than alcohol! But that’s to easy.. you can’t get that here anyway.
``The campfire guru decides to invite me to his family for a traditional Omani breakfast.``
Aniseed tea, Arabic coffee, strong-leg fruit, biscuits and pancakes with honey. With the utmost care, the ingredients of the breakfast are brought in, under the watchful eye of father. The campfire man was very satisfied with my addition to the campfire the night before and decided to invite me to his family the next morning for a traditional Omani breakfast. The fact that he lives just an hour further, up and down trough the mountains, is something I gladly accept.You can’t let this kind of invitation pass by, can you? With the good Omani breakfast behind me I let myself get lost, something I do more often to discover unexpected places. I drive into a village and suddenly the village seems to change into an abandoned uninhabited city. You shouldn’t miss a chance like that either, so: drop your car at the side and check it out! And Yes; my suspicion is correct… not 1, not 2, not 10…. dozens of old houses and streets completely deserted. A Ghost town! The icing on the cake is the possibility to enter some of the houses. The floors with old rooms, cabinets carved out the wall, the weathered green doors… This is Oman 100 years ago. This is gold!
``in a tent overlooking the rising sun...``
Gold is also the colour of the fine sand of the Wahiba desert. The tent, with its opening to a scenery with sand, sand, sand and sand… and a bit of sand gives me a beautiful view to nothing. There is just nothing, just sand. Where in the Wadi Rum in Jordan I still encountered rocks in the desert, this desert seems to consist only of sand mountains. That is of course reason enough to run down these mountains together with other camp-ers, so fast that your feet try to run past you. But in the meantime you also seem to have the gift to find time to debate with yourself that stopping is not an option, because then you would dive into the sand head-first, but continuing would mean that you would also go down head-first only to disperse even deeper into the sandpit. Anyway; luckily the strong-leg fruit helped. All good. A crash course Boudin dance and the skills to charm Boudin women by strict Boudin standards precede dinner, and then the learning curve about the Boudin life continues at the campfire. It is a blessing to listen in the middle of the desert, in absolute silence to the stories about the Boudin life, the survival techniques in the desert and the function of the camel? Did you know, for example, that the camel can lift a maximum of 50% of its weight? And did you know of the existence of a special water-camel that they can take with them so that in case of extreme need they can slaughter it in order to use the water from the camel to survive? These techniques are centuries old and have nothing to do with Facebook and microwaves…
When the sun has gifted us with a nice show the next morning, there is work to be done. The goats and camels don’t care much that we have “holidays”, they are just hungry. Feed and milk work to do before leaving! Together with a Japanese guy which I met in camp, we stop on our way to the coastal town of SUR for a dive into the water of Wadi Kadi Khalid. A Wadi filled with turquoise colored clear water. One of the few real green spots in Oman. Good to see some color. When we arrive at the hotel, we go into town for some sightseeing and good dinner. When the next morning the backpack is swung in the car again; I expect to find my 2nd parking fine in this trip, but instead; I find a nice note under the windshield wiper from other fellow desert campers, who have recognized my car in the city 200 km further on. I love these actions!
``and the learning curve about the Boudine life continues at the campfire``
The last days in Oman I spend, with a quick stop for a dive in the Bimmah sinkhole, in the capital Masqat. The city where I started my trip in Oman. In the meantime I’ve been on the road for 5 weeks and I notice that I’m starting to feel a bit tired. So I have to be careful and get a good night’s sleep, get good vitamins and exercise. Just do nothing and recharge the battery! 03:00 the alarm goes off. Time to go to the airport, on to more green! “Was this scratch already on the bumper?” … “Yes, sir!” (Well, actually not, the shortcut attempt to bypass 10km by driving over a roadblock was not the best attempt of its kind, but you have to do something if you still want to catch your flight because the snooze button was unintentionally touched to much). “ah okay”… “Okay bye!”. A little sprint and then board. On to Bangladesh! Will like it! – or not? Read in my next blog what happened in Bangladesh!
``I love antiquity and that's what this country has.``
Okay, so Oman! What do I think about it? I thought it was an interesting country to experience. With the exception of taxi drivers with whom I am somehow not able to level so well, the inhabitants are great people. I also learned to appreciate the Omani clothing.The long white robes with white hat or turban. Yeah, I appriciate it; it exudes something stately. The country is multifaceted, from hike possibilities, colourful wadis -to a desert and a coast. I love antiquity and that’s what this country has. My 10 days visa was enough to feel the soul of the country. Would I like to book a week more? Probably so; I haven’t been able to go to the turtles trek at the coast and the far south of Oman wasn’t an option either in terms of time. Who knows, maybe I’ll ever set foot on an Omani soil again! Would you like to visit Oman? Let me know! Btw; very nice to get comments on previous blogs! Curious to hear your opinion about this blog about Oman!