E #25 | Oh man, Oman! | 250th day

This article was brought to you, translated, by my Indian friend Raghava. We spent some time in his country together and he decided to help me. Even though he doesn’t speak German. Just using his brain and internet. Thank you so much Raghava! It helps a lot and I’m so happy about it! If someone else likes to help me as well, please contact me, I do need support!

Now that I had spent a comfortable time with Narek in Abu Dhabi, I had the energy and the urge to discover something new. After going back and forth a lot of times and many attempts to find an accompaniment, I finally decided to get a taxi and go. So I booked a car online in the evening to start early morning, the next day.


Roadtrip through the emirates

The car ride was very smooth and without any problems. This ride should lead me to the border with Saudi Arabia. The further I came towards the border, the warmer it became. 37 ° C at maximum. After a few hours, I came to the first sand dune of Rub-al-Chali, the largest sand desert in the world. My goal was to reach the Tal-Moreeb (Which translates to “terrible hill” ), with 120m altitude one of the highest sand dunes in the world and the largest of Rub-al-Chali. A 25km long asphalted road leads through the red-gold sand dunes to it. The Tal-Moreeb was impressive, but unfortunately totally blocked by dune race festival facilities. Unfortunately I could not climb them. Everything was fenced. I could have trudged sideways, but the 1.6km was too far. But the road through the desert was the real highlight for me. Great, fun, impressive and beautiful!

A bit of time and effort lead me to Al-Ain. The Emirate of Abu Dhabi is located in the heart of the Arabic peninsula and offers phenomenal and traditional buildings to discover. This classic oasis city offers much more history than the Emirates at the Persian / Arabian Gulf. Sure, because here the country was already fertile without human influence and import. The formerly heavily defended oases are today the home of Richard and his daughter. The two hosted me for one night and gave me a best of Al-Ain experience in the shortest possible time. So we drove to the old forts and palaces and by our good fortune, we could experience the traditional folk Dance "Ayala". With free dates and coffee, we watched the men dance with sticks and weapons. The two ranks and the close-knit men symbolise the diversity and unity of the tribes at the same time. Fascinating.


Early, next morning, I went to pick up Shicay in Dubai. She’s going to be my Couchsurfing companion for two days, so we could share not only a few memorable experiences, but also expenses. She is an expat here in Dubai and has already experienced quite a lot here. Together we were traveling through the Emirates of Sharjah and Ajman to the north of the Emirates. So we drove past the famous Soviet aircraft wreck in Umm-Al-Quwain, an Ilyushin IL-76 which was forgotten here by war profiteers, which was then confiscated by the Emiratians and today has become the main attraction of the unused airport and present day theme hotel / bar. From there we drove to Jebel Jais, the highest point of the UAE in the Ras-Al-Chaimah emirate. And then I finally saw the mountains. My heart skipped a beat gazing at the shallow, sandy country, the desert of the Emirates, waiting to be discovered.

Over a relatively well laid out street I raced my Mazda up the serpentines. A thrilling ride. There were also the Ferraris and the Lamborghinis, which shot at a speed which my car would probably reach only on a highway. Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. At the uppermost parking lot, Shicay and I climbed to the top. Unfortunately, the main summit of the mountain is in Oman and we could not reach it, however, we climbed the side summit, which is the highest point of the Emirates. There we met a small group of tourists from Pakistan. They sang their traditional songs. As I thought the songs were very rhythmic and soulful, I joined them and sang with them, It was so much fun. Moreover, the view of the Gulf, the desert and the Omani mountains were outstanding

Shicay had already organized a tent to join a litte desert camp festival. In the desert in the Emirate of Dubai, a few emiratis and expats meet for a celebration and camping. And of course we are also part of the game. In contrast to the idyllic solitude in Iran, this was a real party. Approximately 60-70 people from all over the world from different cultures and traditions met, danced, cooked, grilled and drank together. The music festival vibe completely took over me, It was perfect. I spent the final early morning hours with some new friends around a camp fire and we shot one song after another from my guitarlele.


The next morning I dropped Shicay back in Dubai and headed east to the Emirate of Fujairah. I then visited all 7 emirates. First I went to the mountains, to the border town Hatta, where the largest dam and hence the largest water reservoir in the country is located . Since I was on my own, I saved myself a canoe ride and spent the time in some further education at the museum village in Hatta where I was able to examine old castles, houses and workshops, and learned a lot about the history, culture and former way of life of the deserts. On the way to the coast I visited one or the other Wadi which are dried-out river courses partly still with vegetation.

On the coast in the capital I have been allowed to stay at Ruth, a British emigrant. She recommended me a few things that can make the next day, the last of my little round trip. So I drove the coast northwards and stopped at one of the many abandoned beaches. Not far from the beach was an island to be recognized. As I learned later, it was "Snoopy Island". I walked across the beach for some time and then, despite the fact that I was completely alone, I decided to swim to the island. For a long time I thought back and forth whether I should dare. But for that I was on the road: adventure. So I took my snorkel gear and went to the island. Fortunately, I had my camera with me, because the underwater world was incredible! Unbelievably colorful fish I could discover, pursue and marvel. Countless fish crossed my course to the island. I actually made it to the island and the corals living there amazed me. And then it happened ... my heart stopped beating ... shock! I was just about to film a little video of the fish, I looked over my shoulder and saw a great shark float in the water. So no such a little hiss, no. I guess so roughly > 1.80m length. After the brief shock I was totally fascinated by the big predator as he slides gracefully through his terrain. Fortunately, he was not interested in me at all ... I’ve would not have had a chance, I am unfortunately not so agile and elegant in his terrain. A brilliant and extraordinary experience. Priceless. Later I learned from divers that it is a black fin reef shark. It eats small fish and never divers.


Once again on the beach I got my adrenaline level up and I went by car to the north, to Dibba, the road running along the fabulous coast. Afterwards, it went slowly across the Emirates, to Abu Dhabi. On the track I have looked at some nice places, dikes, deserts, large dunes, breathtaking rock formations, small hills that rise in the middle of the sand dune and what not. Unfortunately, the weather was not so good with me. There was a prolonged cloudburst, a blessing to the country but definitely a little annoying to me. I wanted to capture some cool photos and videos of the fantastic landscape and the small villages that I crossed.


So I arrived back in Abu Dhabi after travelling 2,000 kilometres in the evening at Narek’s place. On the same evening, I planned to organize a tour through Oman via internet. Some interested parties and persons had inquiries and were asked to coordinate and overcome bureaucratic hurdles. On the following day I was fortunate to have a very good company of a lady and was ready to make the first bookings when out of the blue she jumped off. She had some visa issues. It was such a crap, all the planning in vain and I don’t know if the costs could be recovered, of course. After a few minutes of grief, I decided in the evening that this trip to Oman is not to be missed.

Short trip to Oman

So I went to Dubai early in the morning. I could not find much information about the travelling options to Muscat on the internet, but I learnt that there should be a bus that goes directly from Dubai to Muscat. In Dubai, at four different bus stations I have asked more than 15 people regarding the bus to Oman, but I haven’t been able to get much of an information. A painful effort in fact. I then found a bus with Omani license plate, which standing in a supermarket car park. I asked the driver and found that it was the official bus of the Omani government, bringing tourists into the country. This could have been better organized, but it is okay. I have reached my goal. So the 8 hour bus journey to Muscat was miserable and uncomfortable. The bus had an air conditioning system, but the interior cooled down to a very low temperature which was unpleasant. But as I learned later, Oman introduced buses only a few years ago. There was no bus service before and you can notice that in the drivers, they don’t have a lot of experience.

At the border there was a small dispute with the Omani officials. Technically the visa should be free to me, owing to a coalition between the Emirate of Dubai and Oman. But Since I had a stamp from the ferry port and not from the international airport in Dubai, I was demanded 5 Omani Rial. In the end, I had no choice but to pay. And the Omani rial is strong, very strong, 1 Rial is about 2.5 €! Oman is even more expensive than the Emirates, with insane prices. Out of all this chaos, one comfortable thing was that the bus driver (whom I had already well befriended), has left me within walking distance to my hostess at a motorway crossroad. Well, he asked for a small donation, but since I had no cash with me (I have actually lied to him) he went away without taking any payment.

So I met my hostess Hilde in a shisha bar on the beach of Muscat. Hilde is a native Dutch woman, but has been living in Muscat for over 12 years. She is passionate shisha smoker. She told me a lot about the life and the changes here in Oman. It was great to have her at my side and learn from her. Since she had to go to work on the first day, I made my own picture of the capital first. I walked along the beautiful beach promenade, the whole 15km! It was wonderful to pass through the large white sand beaches, palm trees, bridges through mangroves to the famous cliffs of Oman. A fantastic march with great impressions! The Sultan, sole proprietor in the absolute monarchy, had, among other things, issued the decree that no skyscrapers may be built. I think that’s an awesome decision. And not only because of many modernizations, the people and the expats here have great sympathy with the 77-year-old Qabus ibn Sa'id Al Sa'id. Similar to the Emirates, Shariah also prevails in Oman, which - unlike Saudi Arabia - is rather modernized and many Western influences are tolerated, especially by and  for tourists.

I enjoyed a cozy time with Hilde, with traditional Arabic food and of course Shisha. In addition I made myself useful and repaired a few lights in her apartment. I got to know some of her friends and I am also positively surprised how, in contrast to the Emirati, Omanis behave like ordinary people to the people in their country ; open and "touchable". On the second day came another couchsurfer, Tarek from Kuwait, born Jordanian, who was visiting Muscat over the weekend. Together, Hilde led us through the area in her Jaguar. We visited the most beautiful and interesting corners of the city. Particularly noteworthy is the visit to the Sultan's palace. A huge area outside the city surrounded by other palaces where some of its ministries are housed. It was nice that a school class from a

village inland made an excursion to the capital and we met them at the gates of the palace. I could talk to some kids and it was a nice picture to see the children in their traditional clothes. The Sultan owns nine palaces throughout the country. And even in Garmisch-Patenkirchen in Germany he has a residence. Next we went through the hills of the city and explored old fortresses, mosques and the old town.

In the afternoon, we went to the marina. Through the mountains, the city is more or less systematically divided. There are separate areas in each valley for different purposes, whether it is a residential area, a workplace, markets, embassies or even this port. I feel wonderful here and the mixture of mountains, postcard beaches, steep coasts and valleys offers a lot of variety. At the yacht harbor Hilde had organized a small boat trip for us. Of course it was a little expensive, but it was definitely worth the price. Oman is famous for its steep coasts and unique rock

formations. Even Sindbad the sailor would have halted to admire the beauty. We drove along the cliffs for two hours, saw rocks shaped like elephants or faces, passed tunnels, passed fortresses and enjoyed the time aboard the small boat.


In the evening we visited a great, traditional restaurant where we ordered "Shuwa". This dish is traditionally prepared at the end of Ramadan. Its preparation takes a few days as the marinated meat is wrapped in banana leaves, with a few coals and left in the desert. Thus, Omanis celebrate the end of the fasting season with excitement and anticipation. The food was outstanding. The next morning, Tarek and I jumped into the sea, which was exceptionally warm, and we pulled our tracks along the beach. I went back to Dubai by bus. For two nights I wanted to stay in the metropolis to prepare for my flight to India and the next culture. I also had something on my list:

The Art of Engineering

 A few days before, I spontaneously decided to visit the highest man-made structure. The 828m high Burj Khalifa, which was designed like a desert plant, was something to see from inside not to be missed at all. So I invested the

required money and set out for my visit. The elevator took 55 seconds to reach  the 124th floor at a height of 452m. The view from the outside terrace is impressive just like everything in Dubai. The tower breaks some world records, and is truly an imposing structure. I really like the design. But as I said: here should actually be desert ... no buildings. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the visit and amazed Dubai from a bird's perspective for quite some time, even if the weather was not perfect for it. But enough for me.

Quelle: YouTube.com | Neon Cartoons Production


The rest of the day I spent preparing for my journey to India, A bit of shopping and searches for my arrival arrangements. You’ll better be prepared if the Indian taxi drivers are going to meet their reputation. So I made the next morning to the gigantic Dubai airport and then noticed that I can only take 15kgs luggage. So I took out few "superfluous" things and somehow managed to get my luggage under limit without much effort. With the Indian airline Indigo I should land in Mumbai in 2.5 hrs. Since I started my trip in Crete, it’s my first flight after 8 months. I actually wanted to avoid airplanes, but there are no passenger ferries between the Arabian Peninsula and India. There was no choice for me but to take a plane. So, let's go.

 

If and how hard the Indian culture will challenge me, I hope I can report you soon. I'm as curious as a baby. See you soon. Your Schilli


Funfacts

- On my way to the valley of Moreeb, I got stuck in the AbuDhabi BikeRide 2017. I was driving behind this huge group of cyclists on the highway for 1.5 hrs. There was neither a bypass nor a chance to sneak past the escort cars, police and TV cars. In addition, various helicopters were surveying it. In fact, the pace of professional and semi-professional cyclists has impressed me.

- On Jebel Jais I wanted to make a fixed rope route. And from above with the flying fox (zip-lining) back down. However, it was 150 €. Way too expensive.

- On the way to the desert Camp, Shicay and I have discovered a professional shoot of the latest Lamborghini models in the sand dunes. Looked nice ... but sports cars in the sand?

- I'm still confused with the weekends. Sometimes it’s from Thursdays to Fridays, sometimes Fridays and Saturdays ... crazy

- Hilde has prepared a great bed for me. In beautiful red with heart pillows and teddy bears.

- A cheap lunch which consists of French fries, a small burger and a cola costs 10 rial which converts to 25 € !!!

This is too much for me. Plus taxes of course! This is something I hate. I hate net price information for consumers.

- In the Gulf States the plate is taken away from the table as soon as it seems that you might have finished. You might be still chewing, the waiters come and clear the empty plate off the table. To leave the empty plate in front of guests is considered rude. Either refill the plate or take it off. No one should sit in front of an empty plate.

- At Burj Khalifa you can enjoy the sunset twice. At the lowest floor first and from the top floor again!!



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