Dubai to Musandam (Oman)

February 19, 2011

I must say that a trip to Musandam, Oman is a must for UAE expats for that great breather from the city life. It's a mere 185 kms drive from Dubai in about three hours. During holidays, it may take longer in the border as people que for the visa stamp.
We definitely would be going back, and I'm listing here some of why we'll be:

Top reasons to drive to Musandam, Oman:

1. Drive in about 45 kilometers of easy and breathtaking coastal drive -- curving through the rocky mountain edges with the blue sea on one side
2. Camp and relax. We joined around 40 cars who camped along Bassa Beach neaar the Golden Tulip Hotel. Other daring options could be at over 2000 meters above sea level at Jebel Sayh or at small Telegraph island surrounded by waters. 

3. Drift through timelessness in a dhow trip through the fjords with rugged coastlines and hidden inlets. We did a half day trip for AED 100 each (whole day costs AED 200), starting with a little of the splashing wavy waters until the boat reaches near the inlet to see dolphins. Reaching past the inlet, the water calms. Then we get a sight of the ancient Kumzar village. Moving a little and we reached Telegraph Island where some of our mates swam and snorkled. Down the clear waters, fishes got near the boat.

4. Take the challenge to drive offroad up UAE's and Musandam's highest peak of 2087m at Jebel Sayh (also called Jebel Harim) for over 30 kms through unpaved roads up the rocky mountains. Maneuver through blind curves without convex mirrors, definitely giving the feel of the need to drive slow and carefully and oh, definitely on 4X4.

5. Take a short trek up the UAE- Oman border before reaching Sayh Plateau. Find the border marker and cross between the two countries without formalities. Meet the wind and the cool air.

6. Smiles and waves from fellow drivers on the road along the mountain slopes is definitely a breather from the city roads where no one gives the approaching driver a blink. Each one seems to be glad you're in the place with them.

7. Be accustomed of goats and donkeys crossing the roads and loitering the place. Before the border, see cows by the middle of the road.

8. Be in awe of creation with the different rock formations. Set aside daily concerns and get to feel the basics of how the earth came to be.

9. Drive to Khor Najd and watch fishermen transfer their large catches from the boat to the cars .

10. Get a feel of the Omani's 17th century forts as their means of guards against attacks of the sea.

Our total experience of camping, mountain trekking and driving offroad is a total highlight.

Our Explorer UAE Off-Road book has guided us well with its detailed maps and listings of must-sees, and I recommend it for those traveling by themselves. 

Other relevant links are:

Royal Oman Police - regarding visas. We first paid AED 35 for the UAE exit stamp, then AED 50  each for the Omani tourist visa as UAE residents.

Oman Tourism - guides to the attractions, getting to and around Oman. For your hotel search (if you don't camp), pick "Khasab". 

Just drop me a comment below if you think I could help with some of your queries. (PS, I noticed the increase in my blog traffic with UAE IP addresses mostly landing on pages of our road trips, hence this tone).

For more of our Musandam trip's photo takes, I posted them HERE at Facebook. You might want to let me know you came by clicking "Like". Thanks a lot!


A Little of Bahrain

February 14, 2011

It's been a year since I did a quick hop to Bahrain. It's my first and so far, only business trip. By business it meant having stayed in the office all day, and maybe say all night, literally. It's my first to have left work at 2:30 a.m. and I apologized to my Filipina colleague who got harassed twice on her way home for leaving late too after giving me company.

I felt a little of Baguio and Manila when I was there -- small airport, narrow roads, short buildings, and fellow Filipinos walking the streets and in the service industries ( the hotel, food chains, pharmacy). But while the narrow roads witness traffic, its sidewalks don't.

My interaction from Bahrainis were limited in the cars. That is, the hotel staff who picked me from the airport is Bahraini, and so were the elderly locals who drove the taxis in my three days stay. The hotel staff made me like Golden Tulip Bahrain's customer service, being so apologetic (when I requested to take the photo below, nothing else) and arranged my free meal just for the error of addressing me "Mr".

I didnt get around so there's not much to share, except for the pictures below. My remarkable experience though is from the bunch of fellow Filipinos in the workplace (whom I met first time) who where very accomodating and friendly and made me comfortable at the first instance. They had a great bond, which made me think that Bahrain has a charm that radiates to people who stay there.

A view from the Golden Tulip Hotel

The tips of the Bahrain World Trade Center come parallel with the mosque minaret

The pointed tips of The World Trade Center, which I think is a landmark. 

All about our Superman

Gremly Tweets July 2010 - January 2011

February 11, 2011

This is our daily sight at home, with the Gremlin making the most of what's left (we kept all his toys) for him and recreates his favorite The Palm Jumeirah or the the Burj Khalifa

The floor now is added to his canvass. Again, his version of the The Palm on the floor

 The Gremlin moves a lot, and of course talks a lot. And for my diary, I managed to tweet the following on him for seven months:

Gremlin, combing his hair: "I'm becoming more guwapo"  10 Dec 2010

In front of the mirror, Gremlin: "I'm guwapu!" Ay sus! 20 Nov 2010

Gremlin erasing his drawing of me: "Ok mama, let's change it, not mad face" hmmmp! After drawing his dad's smiling face, drawn mine as mad! 19 Nov 2010 

Gremlin: "... In the name of the Father, Son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen." then he asks "What is the Spirit"? 2 Nov 2010 

Me: "Your papa and me will go out" Gremlin: "That will be nice, where are you going?" (He's glad for me to leave the laptop for him to use)  2 Nov 2010 

Gremlin: "Mama, can you please remove your slippers? Next time do not use them in my play area because it will get this dirty!" 3 Oct 2010 

Gremlin: "Papa, dont hold the butterfly! It wont fly!" 3 Oct 2010 
The Gremlin's today: 110cm and 18.5 kgs. 3 Oct 2010 

I restricted my son to drink as we on sort-of long drive. I declined when he asked for my juice. He said: "Mama, you should share!" 1 Oct 2010 

I'm now getting physical, grabbing tight his arms, with my Gremlin when he misbehaves. He said: "Mama, please dont hurt me, that's bad!" 1 Oct 2010 

Gremlin: "Mama ~ I'm hungry ~~",
Me: "We go home, there's lots of vegetables and apples!"
Gremlin: "Can we go buy cake?" 1 Oct 2010 

At our Dreamland Aquapark trip, Gremlin: "I like to sliding one hundred times, not swimming!" and he wants the high Mighty Slides =) 30 Sep 2010 

After Deira Creek stroll, Gremlin: "I dont want to ride the car to Atlantis! Can we ride the boat to go there?!" 30 Sep  2010 

Me: "Kalel, what did Teacher Aileen tell you?" Gremlin: "She said, 'Be quiet!' " Hahaha! 30 Sep 2010 

It's the first day of the Gremlin at KG2 today... yesterday night was a wrestle to put him to sleep starting from 10 pm to 12 midnight...  14 Sep 2010 

Hearing our chat on RTA, the Gremlin at the backseat drew the RTA logo. My son, you made me so happy and proud of what you can do =) 12 Sep 2010

 The Gremlin adores Dubai Mall's fountain a lot! Last month, he has been clicking alone youtube for videos. We though have to spell for him. 7 Sep 2010 

Gremlin: "Can I please paint, pleeeease -- on the laptop?!" He meant at Paint, he's been doing it for a week now. 7 Sep 2010 

Gremlin frantically crying over suppository forced to his ubet: "Did the line get out?!! Did it get flushed?!!" 31 Aug 2010 

Gremlin's building parking litany: " They close the light because they are saving energy. They open the lights so we can see our way!" 30 Aug 2010

Gremlin: "You should know that, the machine is blowing up the water!" . He was lecturing his dad how the Dubai Mall water fountain works =) 29 Aug 2010 

Hahaha, the Gremlin insisting his grammar against his dad. "Not "bit" papa, it's mama bite me!" 28 Aug 2010 

My phone fell on the floor. Gremlin: " It's papa's fault, mama you punish papa! Papa, you should be punished!" 22 Aug  2010 

Casually, the Gremlin said "I want to go to USA (to watch the Bellagio fountains in Vegas)!" 21 Aug 2010 

I said "Oh so there's a great wall of Turkey" while looking at the pictures of Gulfnews today. Gremlin: "No, Great Wall of China!" 21 Aug  2010 

Aunties Nymfa and Berly's cakes for dessert on Friday lunch here at home. Auntie Joan's family joined us too =) 21 Aug  2010 

Awaiting the fountain show @ Dubai Mall, I was blabbering to the Gremlin when sweetly he said: "Can you please stop talking mama..." 17 Aug  2010 

Gremlin's current way to emphasize negation: No! N-O! (spelling out the letters). 16 Aug  2010

Me:"Kalel pls press the red button"(of his dad's massage chair so i can take turn" Gremlin "that's not very good mama and papa will get mad" 12 Aug  2010

At the dining table, Gremlin: "Papa you are old... Mama is new..." Hahaha! 10 Aug  2010 

Kids are fast learners, we just need to believe. Thank you teacher Aileen for the hugs, I think the Gremlin coped well because of those. 8 Aug  2010 

We're just glad to have sent the Gremlin to a monthlong summer school, helped him to pass his KG2 assessment test without attending KG1. 8 Aug  2010 

We enrolled the Gremlin to mainstream KG2 school yesterday, and we look forward he'll adjust well when he hasnt stepped on KG1... 8 Aug  2010

 Gremlin: "Wait a second papa!". He earlier used "a minute" =) 7 Aug  2010

Gremlin: "I want to be a astronaut so I can drive a rocket ship!" 5 Aug  2010 

Gremly proactive-ness: "I think we should put back the plastic of the table!" 5 Aug  2010 

Second line from the Gremlin: "If my teeth come off, I will buy a new one. But my money got lost in the bed..." 3 Aug  2010 

"If my teeth come off, I need to eat a apple!" said the Gremlin. Yes, it's been always "a" before a vowel-starting word. 2 Aug  2010 

Shifting things, tired but glad... seven car trips and a truck trip tomorrow... 23 Jul  2010 

Meeting as I came from work, Gremlin: "Mama, I want to go to planet Mars, I want to go to outer space!" 22 Jul  2010

The sick Gremlin wont let me leave home for work this morning. He said: "But you forget me mama!" 16 Jul  2010 

My li'l boy's down with fever and a li'l cough... 13 Jul  2010 

Gremlin: "Mama your favourite color is pink, my favourite is green, and papa's favourite color is orange!" ... huh? ok... 9 Jul  2010 

On his 2nd day of summer classes, Gremlin insisting sweetly: "Papa, can you please bring me to school?" 7 Jul  2010


Dubai to Muscat

February 05, 2011

Our longest road adventure from Dubai yet is to the Sultanate of Oman. 
It was a great trip highlighted by our drive up to Jebel Akhdar (or Jabal Al Akdhar). There's more treasures out of Muscat, and we hoped we had more than two days to spare.

Dubai - Sharjah Kalba Road - Muscat - Nizwa - Al Ain - Dubai
We started out 10 am on Friday from Dubai and took the Sharjah-Kalba Road (from E11, take a right to E611 Maliha Road). It was a relaxing drive on a not-a-busy road; and a scenic option through the 1.27 km tunnel then up-and-down the rocky mountain ranges.

Reaching Kalba, we took right towards the UAE- Oman border for our exit and entry formalities. UAE charged AED 35/ person for the exit stamp, while it's AED 50/ person for the Oman entry stamp. I wonder though that the American passport holder we were following in the cue paid AED 200 each. By the way, an Oman car insurance cover is required.

The Omani officers were accommodating and friendly. It was our head start for gulf hospitality from the Omani locals.
Leaving the border, I was expecting a coastal drive but was frustrated. Yet, it was nice since it was all settlements along the road until we reached Muscat. None of the open desert we had in mind, but instead some greens of plantations and houses lining the road. That took us approximately 450 kms in total from Dubai in about 5.5 hours (a bit slow, ei? It's since we cant speed on Sharjah-Kalba Road, then there's the border delay).

In Muscat, a detailed map of the roads is a must, since it could be confusing. If you know someone from there (thank you Ma'am L for your map), request them to get you one from the Ministry of Tourism along with other Oman maps you might need. 

We only had the next four hours, which we spent driving in the interiors of Al Khuwair and to Old Muscat.

Al Khuwair gave us a better feeling of Muscat as a city. There's no skyscrapers like in Dubai yet I got a feel people has more than enough for themselves. Two-level villas within the city are serving a mix of residential and commercial use. I almost did not notice old-modeled cars on the road, and the only obvious public tranport are the taxi-s. By now I got the impression that this country, without its skyscrapers far stands on a stable economy, with no fear on real estate woes.

We headed next to Old Muscat, for the commercial port and historical forts.

The Royal Palace in Old Muscat

Al Jalali Fort at Muscat Bay built in the 16th century

Forts are all around Oman, left of Oman's need for defense against potential invaders then
If we've left Dubai hours earlier, then we could've more day light to take photos as well as cover other Muscat's landmarks. We also called off to see the Sink Hole in Sur.

By 8pm, we were back in Al Khuwair and settled in Samara Hotel for a budget night stay of AED 300. 

The next day, we left Muscat by 8:30 am towards Nizwa for another 175kms. Driving was a breeze, and it was the first time after running 73,000 kms that the Fortuner's speed  indicator tilted to 150 km/h. 

Along the road to Nizwa

It was Al Hoota Cave in mind that we decided on this route. But as with the advice of the Ministry of Tourism officer, we took to Jabal Al Akhdar first since we'd be passing by Al Hoota Cave on our way out to Al Ain. The mountain drive to Akhdar was magnificent, it deserves it's own blog post, which I'll be featuring next. This turned out to be the highlight of our trip.

We ascended more than 2000 meters above sea level, which is higher than that of my cool mountain hometown in Baguio, Philippines at 1500 meters elevation. It took us four hours out of our 1.5 hours budget. 

It was 3:30 pm when we were back at Nizwa town which is 280 kilometers to Al Ain. Exiting at the open road, we noticed it was an undivided, single lane highway with no light posts. We didnt want being caught in the dark, we immediately ruled out going to Al Hoota cave. By the time we reached Ibri, there were still no light posts but we were relived  the road has turned two lanes each with divider.

The Hajar mountains, which the Jabal Akdhar is part of, had lined the long highway we passed by, at some instances, the rock formations got me awed.

At the intersection exiting to Al Ain and Buraimi, we took Al Ain, which is close by as the sun had set. Looking at the map, it seemed we could've saved time on Al Ain traffic had we took the Buraimi border. 

We were just thankful the li'l boy was asleep for three hours on the way (his gremliness had been reserved until we were on Al Ain Road, he kept complaining his butts are tired). It was 9pm when we reached home in Dubai.

 In a nutshell, Oman is a treasure to explore. The Omanis we asked help from are generally hospitable and their English communication is unexpectedly better than their other counterparts in the region. The brochures we now have on hand tells how much it has to offer (Historical, cultural and nature sights, including Jebel Shams at 3000 meters above sea level, the Sink Hole of Sur, giant green turtles of Ras Al Jinze, the natural swimming pools of Wadi Bai Khalid, Al Hoota Cave in Nizwa, among others).

That's it for now on our Oman drive. I'll write next about Jabal Al Akhdar.

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