Travel Report United Arabic Emirates and Oman

Travel Report United Arabic Emirates and Oman

Story by Maurice Samulski. Photos by Maurice Samulski and Ron van Daal 2006.

Saturday, May 20th

We drove from our home in Geleen, The Netherlands to the airport of Dusseldorf to get a direct flight to Dubai with the Dubai based airline Emirates. We had to board at 20:20 and the departure of the Airbus A330-200 aircraft (EK 058) from Dusseldorf was at 21:05.

Sunday, May 21th

We arrived in Dubai at 5:45 the next day. Along the flight the services and lunch were very fine, the pan-fried fish fillet served with a saffron and tomato cream sauce and mashed potatoes tasted better than the usual airlinefood. When we arrived at the airport, we hired a small economical car, a Chevrolet AVEO, at Budget Rental for $20/day without CDW and Oman insurance. When the papers were filled out, we drove 150 km in Dubai to get a bit familiar with the city and to find our first stay, the Dubai Youth Hostel. To our disappointment, the “new wing” was fully booked and we could only get the cheaper, uncomfortable 5-bed dormrooms. The first room that was assigned to us was already taken by four other people, and the second room had apparently two beds free, but the bed sheets were used and smelly. After complaining again at the reception they had a “new wing” room available, which we took immediately. The quality of the room was comparable to a three-star hotel room with a TV, airco and bathroom. One of the annoyances was that we only had choice between hot and extremely hot water and therefore a cold shower was not an option. At 13:30 we decided to get our passports at the reception and go to the Oman embassy to get visa for Oman. Unfortunately we came too late, it was closed at 14:00. At 16:00 we were back into the hostel and took a 4 hours nap. When we waked up, we went to Planet Hollywood at 21:00. The spaghetti bolognese there was quite good. In the same building, a trendy bar Gin Seng was housed. The lounge music was a bit loud, but the caiparinhas cocktails were excellent. At 23:00 we left the place and decided to go and search for some geocaches, and we have found 1, 2, 3. After the last one we went back to the hostel and got into our beds at 2:00.

Monday, May 22th

At 10:00 we waked up which was too late for the hostel’s breakfast. At 11:00 we went to the Oman embassy to get our visa, which was easier than we expected. After 15 minutes and Dh66 we got our visa for Oman. After that we drove to Sharjah and ate at the Sharjah Mega Mall. The egg with aspergus and the handmade cappucino was delicious. At the Sheik Sultan Al Awal road we took some pictures of the almost empty, public beach. After that we went to Sharjah’s Central Souq with its Islamic design and made some pictures of the King Khalid Lake next to the central souq. At the Al Kuwait square, we noticed a building with a huge golfball on its top, which we later saw at many more places in the Emirates. These buildings are the headquarters of Etisalat (Emirates Telecommunications). Nearby the Al Kuwait square, the sjarjah musea are located which we are going to visit at a later time. At 21:30 we ate at the Lonely Planet’s recommended Al-Fawar libanese restaurant. The mixed grill was so-so, but we got a lot of stuff for free (salads, vegatables, water). At 23:00 we were back at the hostel.

Tuesday, May 23th

This morning we headed to Fujeirah on the east coast of the Emirates. We came across the coffeepot roundabout, searching for the Youth Hostel of Fujeirah. Booked a room in this hostel where they only had a 4-bed room available at Dh120. We immediately left the hostel to go to the 300 years old Fujeirah fort which is under restoration and the ruins of old Fujeirah. After that we went to the nearby Fujeirah museum which had exhibits on fisher activities and archeological finds. There was not much other things to see in Fujeirah, and therefore we decided to go south on the Corniche road towards the Oman border and took pictures of a ship, the port and the beach with flag. At 15:00 we went to eat Chinese noodels in the largest building of Fujeirah, a mall and some expensive residences. After that we did go north on the Corniche road to get to the port of Khor Fakkan, the largest town on the east coast after Fujeirah and further to Dibba and a part of northern Oman. After driving around in Oman a bit we came back to Fujeirah (21:00) and ate at an Indian restaurant Taj Mahal where the food was extremely spicy. My stomach got upset and I needed to take some Diacure tables to calm it down :). Around 23:00 we were back in the hostel.

Wednesday, May 24th

The airco in our room did not work optimally, it was still 30+ degrees in our room and the airco made a very annoying noise. Nevertheless, we tried to sleep, until my travelling friend saw ‘something’ walking on the wall. After we turned on the lights we saw a big cockroach running over the floor. We were so disguisted by this, that we went to the hostel manager and said we would like to leave and receive (a part) of our money back. Just as we expected, we didn’t get any money back, he just laughed a bit and said it was because of the hot weather. He could not do anything about the insects, and said literally “your money is in my pocket, so not my problem”. We decided to get the hell out of this hostel and drove to Ras Al-Khaimah at 2:00 for a better place. At 6:00 we finally found a good hotel at the beach, the Bin Majid Beach Resort (4 stars). We said we wanted to check out on May 25th, and to our surprise we only had to pay for one night. Good service and a nice room with a good view on the beach. We did not regret our descision and were still on schedule. When we slept 6 hours or so, we went to the Ras al-Khaimah museum which was housed in an 18th century fort with a beautiful carved door. It has small rooms covering the archeological history of the emirate, and a room devoted to the ruling family Al Qasami. One of the interesting exhibits is an ancient water bag. At 16:00 we drove to the deserted city Jazirat al-Hamrah. Why the people left here is still a mystery. When we wandered around, we came across some ruins of a fort, old watchtowers and windtowers. After that we went to Umm al-Quwain, the emirate south west of Ras Al-Khaimah. The museum there showed some archeological excavations. After that we went to the Umm-Al Quwain wall with round watchtowers which was close to the sea. We took some photos of the sun going under (around 18:30). A lot of local people were swimming in the sea at this time and right after the ‘call for prayer’ they got out and rushed to the nearby mosque. At 21:00 we were back at the luxerous beach resort where I took a spaghetti bolognese in their restaurant. Unfortunately, they had no clue what a good spaghetti bolognese contained, the sauce was a oily substance with some rinced meat. No tomato at all :/.

Thursday, May 25th

It’s 9:00 and Ayman is our next city on our planning to visit. After heaving a great breakfeast including scrambled eggs, croisants, cofee and bacon, we checked out of the hotel and jumped in our car heading to Sharjah. At 11:00 we were searching for the Islamic museum, but it was not in the same area as the archeological and science museum. Made some photos of the roundabout with the big Koran. At 12:30 we went to search for a interesting archeological site in the middle of the desert; but we only found some garbage and neglected animals. After that we went to the Sharjah Natural History Museum and Desert Park. Initially we thought it was some sort of safari park where we could drive through with our car, but the desert park was just three musea. However, one of the musea, the Arabian Wildlife Centre, featured flora and fauna of the arabian desert that housed exotic birds, plants, foxes, snakes, desertcats, hyenas, and other exclusive animals. Unfortunately we were not allowed to make pictures inside the museum. After that it is time to visit the Islamic Museum. It showcases different objects of the Islamic heritage as Arabic manuscripts, pottery, and old coins.

Friday, May 26th

The alarm rang at 8:00 and an hour later we checked out of our hotel in Sharjah, to get the Oman insurance for our car. We tried to get an insurance for Qatar but that was not possible. Then we drove to Abu Dhabi. On the way to Abu Dhabi, we search for a cache in the desert and found it. On the highway to Abu Dhabi we witnessed a severe crash of a car, which was still burning. At 12:30 we were in Abu Dhabi and went to the port to get a photo of the skyline. After that we drove to the Emirates Palace of Abu Dhabi which is also a hotel. In the parking garage we saw hundreds of expensive cars, the sight of ten Rolls Royce next to eachother is magnificent. There is not much to see in Abu Dhabi, other than nice, big buildings.

Saturday, May 27th

Searching the petroleum historic museum for hours, we finally spoke to a government official that told us that the museum was closed in 2004. We decided to go to Al Ayn and on the way we took a photo of a fort. Then we headed to the 5-star Mercure Hotel on the biggest mountain of the UAE: the Jebel Hafeet. The location and services of the hotel were excellent, and we enjoyed our stay here. We decided to go and search for a geocache near Buraimi in Oman. Unfortunately the sun was going under, and it was not safe enough to search for it without flashlight. We managed however to photograph a very nice sunset there.

Sunday, May 28th

In the morning, we did a quick search for a geocache that was located on the Jebel Hafeet mountain. After some searching we found it. In the afternoon we went to the Al Ain oases and the animal market. After that we headed for the small town Al Jimi to photograph some of the date palms. At 19:00 we were back in the hotel where I had a good massage from a friendly Philippine women. In the evening we had an Arabian BBQ at the hotel.

Monday, May 29th

Went across the Omani border to Buraimi for the Buraimi oasis and Buraimi souq. At the Al Ayn shopping mall I purchased a memorycard for my camera and a big cappucino at Starbucks. Then we went to visit the Hili oases, the Hili gardens and archeological park with the Round Structure, dating from the 3rd milennium before Christ. It has two porthole entrances and is decorated with relief carvings of animals and peoples. Then we went to the camel market of Buraimi and made some pictures of local people selling their camels. Next we went to the Al Jahili fort which was not open for public.

Tuesday, May 30th

Today, an exhausting drive to Muscat, Oman is on our planning. We did not wasted too much time at the customs, after paying some dirhams to get the exit stamp of UAE, entering Oman was quite easy. On the way to Muscat we have visited a dry wadi. The next stop will be Nizwa, to make some photos of the oldest fort in Oman. The heat was sometimes unbearable and after walking around for an hour we needed to go back into the airco again. In the evening we reached Muscat and the searching for a hotel which was not too expensive had begun. Finally we came across the Haffa House, which had acceptable accomodation and room rates.

Wednesday, May 31th

Today, we had decided to visit Wadi Tayeen, one of the most accessible wadis in Oman according to Oman2day travelguide. After driving for a few hours, we did get to the ‘entrance’ of the wadi but unfortunately it was not accessible by saloon car at all. On the way we shot some pictures of the road through the mountains, a small village Handroot, a small wadi lake, and soccer playing locals in the middle of the desert.

Thursday, Jun 1th

It is 49 degrees celcius in the old city of Muscat. The Sultan Qaboos Mosque was the only mosque that could also be visited by non-moslims, but only at Saturdays. Made some pictures of the outside. Also shot some photos of the Al Mirani fort and Al Jalali fort which were both not open for public. Then made some pictures of the Al Alam Royal palace with blue columns to reflect the colors of the sea and sky and golden column to reflect sun shining. In the afternoon we went to the famous Mutrah Souq, the oldest market in the capital. We almost bought up all stuff from one shop, frankincense and myrrh, burners, etc. After buying a lot of stuff we went to the mountain steps for a scenic view of old Muscat. Along the way we came across a local man picking a date palm.

Friday, Jun 2th

In the morning we went back to the Mutrah souq for buying some more frankincense and spices. Next we drove the whole way back to Al Ayn. We spotted some wild camels along the road and even a dead camel (WARNING: not for the weak stomach). In the evening we were back in the Mercure Hotel in Al Ayn where we booked another night. We decided to go to the bar with a live coverband from the Philipines, Star Network, which did some random reportoire but also took some requests. We asked them to play something harder, something like Metallica or Evenescence, which they did. We enjoyed our drinks and at 1:00 the bar was closing. Time to hit the bed.

Saturday, Jun 3th

Called the Liwa Oasis Hotel, where we had reserved a room for a couple of days, for a desert trip. To our dissapointment they did not offer any desert trips anymore because there were not many people interested in desert trips. We called some arabic adventures organizations for desert trips and fortunately a firm in Abu Dhabi was offering dune bashing trips. Not in the Rub Al Khali desert with its highest sanddunes, but in the area of Al Ain. We thought that was better than nothing, so we went to Abu Dhabi and payed for a desert trip. Before we went dune bashing, we ate a pizza at a petrol station. It was the worse pizza I ever had eaten! To take minimal risk I ate only the bread but my friend ate it totally. After that we went dune bashing, which was a very extreme experience. The guide took a special route, to bash the highest dunes possible. My friend got a little sick after being shuffled in the 4×4 jeep, but nevertheless it was a nice experience. In the package was also a visit to their desert camp with dune skateboarding, camel riding, belly dancing and a barbeque. At 20:00 when all was finished, we were brought back to our car and went to the Liwa Hotel where we arrived late in the evening.

Sunday, Jun 4th

We drove through the Liwa Oasis and photographed the largest sanddune in the Rub Al Khali desert and visit a fishing farm. Back to the hotel we needed some time to relax, and watched some television and went to the sauna and steaming room of the hotel.

Monday, Jun 5th

We drove thought the Liwa Oasis to the eastern towns, ending in Hameem. In between there were small towns, where people have tamed some of these sands into agricultural lands, and plant strawberries, trees, and other plants. We also measured the highest temperature we had faced in the desert, 60 degrees celcius. Due to the heat, and the lack of interesting attractions, we spent a lot of time in the hotel.

Tuesday, Jun 6th

We drove a quite boring road from Hameem to Abu Dhabi, which was almost a straightforward secondary road through the desert. Along the road we saw literally hundreds of destroyed tires, and were glad we had better luck. On the way we saw a group of camels and a passthrough for camels under the road and we parked our car there and made some photographs. Almost in Abu Dhabi, we came across a car museum that would be opened in 2005, but there was no sign of activity. We continue our trip back to Dubai. In the evening we went to eat at the Hard Rock cafe in the Jumeriah area. When we were finished, it was dark outside and we went to the public Jumeriah beach to take some pictures of the famous 5 star deluxe Burj al-Arab hotel.

Wednesday, Jun 7th

We would like to see the lobby of the Burj al-Arab hotel, so we went to ask the security people at the hotel if there were any tours. They told us that they did not offer tours anymore and that the only way to visit the hotel was to get a restaurant reservation for lunch or dinner. We received a brochure including the dress code. Because we really would like to visit that hotel, we decided to reserve for a lunch. Luckily, they confirmed our reservation and were expected tommorow at 13:00. Until then we went to the famous souqs of Dubai. The gold souq, the perfume souq and the spice souq. After that we took some pictures of the harbour with trade ships. After that we went to the World Trace Center for a tour which was actually an opportunity to go to the highest floor of the building to make some photographs overviewing Dubai’s buildings. After the tour we went to Vu’s bar of the Emirates towers to have some fantastic cocktails.

Thursday, Jun 8th

In the morning we drived to the laundry service who washed our best clothing we had in our travelbags to ensure we complied with the dress code policy of the Burj al-Arab hotel. We were expected at 13:00 and we were perfectly on time. After giving our car to the valet parking personnel we went to the top floor of the hotel, 200 meters above sea level. At the Al Muntaha restaurant we could see the Arabian coastline at The Palm. My friend asked for a sparkling water, and the butler came back with a special H2O card with about 40 different waters coming from all over the world. As appetizer we took tapas with Iranian kaviar and other exclusive food I forgot. For the main course we had both the Halbut filet, which was steamed in a bread. It was absolutely delicious, but we did not expected anything less for 150 euros a person! Nevertheless, a unforgetable experience to eat at the largest and most luxorous hotel. We headed back to the public beach to make some pictures at daylight of the burj Al-Arab and the Jumeriah beach hotel. In the late evening we had Italian dinner in Le Meridien. The spaghetti bolognese there was the best I had in the Emirates. We delivered our rental car back (we had driven a total of 6100 km), and payed for it. After that we planned to have some drinks at Boudoir. Unfortunately we forgot the exact location, and the taxi driver laughed a bit and dropped us off at Le Meridien again. We visited an Irish bar with a live band. The place was full of hookers, trying to earn some money from Western tourists. After drinking two heavy Irish beers we went back to the hostel. In the lobby of the hostel we drank some diet pepsi and water. Also, I had taken my camera with me to review some photos. After some time I headed back to our room with the digital camera but foolishly left the camerabag with a memory stick and some batteries in it at the lounge.

Friday, Jun 9th

The following morning I realised I forgot to take the camerabag and went to the reception. They had found the camera bag, so I was very happy until I reviewed the contents and found out that they had stolen the memory stick with at least 350 photos. We had to catch the plane, so we were not able to make up a report at the police station and the police at the airport could not help because it was not their district. Fortunately, my friend has taken a lot of the same pictures but some unique photos have been lost.

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