Friday, March 21, 2014

More road trip sights...

Since some of you who read this blog don't have access to Facebook, where I post most of my pictures, here are a few more from the road trip.

What?? lol

fishing boats outside of a fishing beautiful...

hrm...what was your first clue?

cheap dinner...excellent food

Omani perfume and my two beautiful scarves.

swinging in the park...appeasing my inner-child...

gorgeous coastline

cat of the corniche...enjoying the fishermen's left overs

gorgeous jasmine flowers

entrance to the Royal Opera House

flower garden outside the Grande Mosque in Muscat, Oman

Grande Mosque in Muscat, Oman

coastline and more fishing villages...

selfies...why not?

yep - that's a wild camel along the roadside...

our crappy hotel for the night in Nizwa,

lemon mint and rose petal smoothies....simply divine!

another wild camel :)


coastline near the Straits of Hormuz

amazingly jagged mountains...

a dhow out for repairs...

more fishing boats...

dhows in Muscat

sorry this is sideways...but it's coffee in Muscat

at the gates of Muscat

stairs to the tower...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

When you just have to go...pee, that is...

So - on the road trip I experience what every traveler does (or maybe not, maybe it's just me)...the nervous "pee".  We were almost at our first border crossing into Oman and my body decided, "Hey, we need to pee because what happens if we get to the border and it takes forever and there are no bathrooms or we get stopped for no reason and aren't allowed to use the bathroom, or, or, or...."  Clearly - my mind was awash with a million different reasons why I might not be able to use the restroom at the border crossing.  We're in this tiny town with goats and cows just lying in the streets...on the people's yards...on the steps to businesses; essentially these animals were everywhere.  Anyway - I figured that at least one of the businesses would have a bathroom to use, so we pull over, I hop out with my wallet and ID (just in case I need to pay to use the bathroom and for some reason show ID - I know - it kind of made no sense about the ID, but oh well...I had to pee and wasn't thinking too clearly at this point.)  So, I jump out and go to the bathroom.  I go to the business next door, bathroom, but the guy at the fruit and vegetable stand says he has a bathroom, all I need to do is follow him.  So I do...down the alley, to his house.  No joke.  Now before you judge me, let's keep a couple of things in mind...#1  I HAVE TO PEE, reallllllly bad at this point.  #2  This is the UAE and there really isn't any crime to speak of, because it's punished so severely.  #3  I was still in view of the car.  #4  I HAD TO PEE!

I followed this man who actually took me to his home, where his wife and son greeted me and allowed me to use their one and only bathroom...which was through their bedroom in the back of the house.  Again - keep in mind about how bathrooms are used here (see one of my previous blog posts about no toilet paper and kitchen sprayers), anyway - the man was very generous and kind to open up his home to a complete stranger, a foreigner no less, and let her use the bathroom so she wouldn't pee her pants.  His wife was incredibly kind as well, although he may have gotten a tongue lashing after I left, I don't know.  While I don't have pictures of him, his wife, house or bathroom, I do have a few of the town and the animals hanging out on the street corners.

OH - and it turned out this little adventure was for naught...there WERE bathrooms at the border crossing and we weren't held for any reason...and I DID get to go pee there too...because by the time I got there, my nervous bladder was already ready for round two.  Note to self - no more drinking water prior to a border crossing. ;)  Or just relax...


another one...

several of them...and a cat...and a cow...

I would hate to explain THIS to the insurance company..."Um...I hit a cow, in town, on the street corner...yes, a cow."  Actually, I think this one is a steer.

Border crossing...a quick reference guide

Just a few thoughts...
#1. Bring cash.  It costs money to cross the border.  I didn't know this, but brought cash anyway.  You will have to pay to exit the country you're in AND to enter the one you're going to. 
#2.  Be prepared to show any and all available identification, including driver's license, car insurance card, registration, passports, etc.
#3.  Be prepared for someone to make a mistake that might freak you out when you go to exit or enter the country and the guard sends you right back to the building for a new/another form.  Pray you get the "golden ticket" (see pic below) that will get you through every part of the border crossing process.
#4. special reason - I just figured it might help.
#5.  If they border guards are chatty - chat back.  It's got to be preeeettty boring sitting in a little shack all day looking at passports and visas.
#6.  Be ready to stop at police checkpoints...for no special reason....and be ready to be a littttttle freaked out when you pass the hummer with machine guns on top and men ready to go at a moment's notice. ;)
#6.  Remember it's an adventure and go with the flow :)

THE Golden Ticket

We sat in line for about 30 minutes and then were waved on through without checking us.  This was the only time we didn't get checked.  Every time it was a bit intimidating, but we weren't worried.  All in the name of adventure!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Pictures and stories from the UAE/Oman holiday road trip...

Road trips...some people love them, some people hate them.  I am of the former attitude.  I love Love LOVE a good road trip.  There is nothing like jumping in the car with a small suitcase/bag, blanket, pillow, various types of shoes, binoculars, cameras, phone charger and miscellaneous snacks and hitting the open road.  Now - in America - you have 3.97 million square miles to cover with no border crossings or police checkpoints (unless you live near the border with Mexico), which makes road tripping relatively stress free.  The same can be said for going on a road trip here...however there are a few additional steps you need to take into consideration.  Here, you don't travel state to state, you travel country to country which has its own set of challenges, such as obtaining the proper/additional car insurance and making sure you have enough cash to pay fees at the border crossing stations.  Nonetheless, we set out on the the 2013 road trip to explore northern UAE and some of Oman.

These are pictures taken in little villages Umm al Quwain and Al Rafaah.  The gates and doors in the majority of the little villages and towns we went through were so amazing.  Bright, colorful and ornate in either the woodwork or metal smithing.  Some of the doors were simply the nicest thing on the entire dwelling.  

Ignore the red arrow in the above map...I took it off of another website because it was the best map I could find to illustrate where we went.  Anyway.  We left Abu Dhabi and headed up the coast of the UAE past Dubai, past Umm al Quwain and up to the tip of Oman near Mussanden.  In doing this we managed to drive through all 7 of the Emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates; Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al Quwain.  We saw the Straits of Hormuz - completely stunning and when you think of the historical significance of it - it kind of made you sick.  Truly - thinking that fairly thin, peaceful piece of water was the center of such turmoil.  Then we were forced to turn around at a police check point because our rental car was just that...a CAR and in order to cross over the mountains like we wanted, we had to have an SUV.  The policemen literally laughed at us when we pointed to the road we wanted to go on.  The guy doubled over...stood back up and said, " car [wagging his finger].  SUV only [puts his hand up in a 70 degree angle] very steep mountain, no car, no car."  So, we turned around and headed back in to Ras al-Khaimah, stayed the night in a hotel and then headed across Oman on an actual paved road to Al Fujairah.  From there we continued down the coast of Oman in to Muscat where we stayed for 2 nights/3 days, then down to Sur; cut across o Nizwa, Ibri and back to the UAE/Oman border at Al Ain.  It was an amazing road trip and the scenery was out of this world.  We saw wild camels, old buildings, spectacular mountains jutting out of the ground, met amazing people - I wish I would have gotten a picture with this little group of kiddos that came running out of their house in one of the villages we visited.  They were so cute!  Once we finished exploring the ruins in that town, we saw a family member giving one of the kids what I could only imagine was a shower...from the garden hose.  It was so adorable :)  

Here are a few more pics from the trip.
Muscat, Oman

The Presidential Palace in Muscat, Oman...and yes, I'm giving up the Oregon "O" in front of the palace gates :)
Overlooking Muscat

The Royal Opera House

Gold jewelry from the gold souq

Gorgeous sunsets...