A Travellerspoint blog

March 2018

There's something About Oman

overcast 15 °C

Yesterday, I woke up at approximately 3:30 am to get the fly to Cairo, or rather I didn't get to sleep-in anticipation of missing my flight. The flight out of Oman was actually at 8:00 am-but with all the problems with the hotel-It semeed like catching a cab might be another-and the airport is approximately 20 or so miles out of town. So I made sure the cab came at 4:00 am. And actually it proved quite incident free. The cab driver was a friend of the hotel manager. So he came right on time. The only issue was my issue-I didn't have the exact change of 10 Omanian Rial's-and had to go to other cab drivers when we arrived at the airport to get the change.

While, I liked Oman-Muscat was absolutely beautiful, situated right on the mountains, the airport isn't quite up to snuff. It looks more like a bus station. There isn't much seating outside security, and there are no jetways that lead from the terminal to the plane, you have to walk outside.

I flew on Gulf Air-which is the official airline of the Kingdom of Bahrain-as the airline continuously stated. The A320 was comfortable, and had a selection of movies. This flight was only 1 1/2 hours-before i had to change planes in the Kingdom of Bahrain to continue on to Cairo.

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I was able to watch the first part of "There's Something About Mary on" on the plane. You might think that film is a little risque for the official airline of an Islamic state-but rest assured there we're notices on the screen not to look when Cameron Diaz (and Aunt Magda) we're topless (or almost topless)

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After an hour and a half, the plane arrived at the Official Kingdom of Bahrain, and while there was construction on a new terminal-this looked to be even more like a bus station. Some of the folks sitting there we're asked for passports and boarding passes by a security guard, and looked like they we're escaping something with little.

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Roughly 3 hours later, the plane arrived in Cairo. I had exchanged the remainder of Ohmanien Rials for Egyption currency before leaving the Muscat airport-but to pay for the Egyptian Visa-it would have been MUCH easier with US dollars (which I didn't have). For whatever reason, the Egyptians are hesitant to accept their own currency for their own Visa-I did find one bank at the airport which issued one-but they had watch me use their ATM to ensure they saw the money come out.

A driver picked me up and brought me to the hostel.

Egypt doesn't sound like a nice place-(it just don't role off the tip of the tongue like Hawaii or Bali)-and this is proving to be true so far. Cairo is a big, ugly city so far, with lots of people, old ugly buildings, and cars honking horns. After checking into the hostel, I took a walk around and even went on the Metro. The Metro is pretty old and fillthy itself. What I was, and am still looking for, is a guidebook on Cairo-but that is hard to find. What is easy to find is people willing to sell me Egyptian tours, which include Luxor, Memphis-although I don't know what is there. Around every corner are people looking to sell me tours.

They did give me an upgrade to a private room at the hostel, thought, at least for the night.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 21:58 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Expensive Day in Oman

Well I got up this morning, and took the long walk up the hill to use the Sheraton wifi in the business Center. Except I couldn't log on. A password was needed (i discovered that yesterday someone else's password was in the computer, and that is how I was able to use it).

I figured out how I could use it-and I figured out that if I buy breakfast in the Sheraton's expansive (and expensive..as I figured out), lobby restaurant, I might be able to get the front desk clerk to give me a pass for the wifi. When I asked the hostess (from the Philippines I think) at the restaurant how much breakfast was, she said 14 Euros, (or so I thought)-that's roughly 7 times as much as I usually spend for breakfast-but it was a lavish buffet, and it wasn't horrible for the price. So I repeated back-14 Euros-correct? And she said yes. I agreed to it. When the server gave me the check-I learned it was $14 Omanian Reals-which is roughly $36.00. Now I told the restaurant manager that I could swear (and I repeated it) 14 Euros-and it totally went past him. He said he would find out the Euro conversion rate from the front desk. So It was $36.00-probably more then I spend on an entire day of eating. But I figured I was in the wrong-why would a meal in Oman-in the Middle East-be quoted in Euros?

And that buffet looked good, and it was good. There was smoked salmon, whitefish, hummus, grape leaves, expensive breads, feta cheese, cakes,-and that's just what I ate. I had 4 servings (at least). I don't think the staff believed I ate that much. I was sitting at a 4 top table-and after they cleared away my utensils, I took the utensils from the other 3 place sittings. I don't think the staff liked me much there at all. Here I was in goofy Hawaiian shirt and big rimmed hat, while the others we're either mostly older couples or business executives in suits and ties. But I was going to get my money's worth. (and I didn't eat again until dinner time-when I had some samosas from a stand-which came to around $3.00breakfast.jpg

The good news is that when I told the front desk clerk (and showed her the receipt) I was able to get on the internet-I spent a good 45 minutes on there. It's rare I get solid wired connection (vs wifi)-(and besides Burger King-which opens at 10:00 am-it was the only choice).

After that, I got on the hop on/hop off bus down the street. I took the bus to the parliament stop to get a picture (there was nothing else to do-it was guarded. I had to wait 1/2 an hour for the next bus-so I waited, the next bus came-and I got off at the Sultan's palace, which was a beautiful building. I met hundreds (Seemingly) kids in uniform, and took pictures with them. I then went to the national museum. I learned that Oman was a country for thousands of years-the Portuguese conquered years ago, but it was reclaimed. There we're many old fortifications. I learned that back in 1930-an explorer walked through the desert from Oman to Qatar, which was roughly a 60 day journey-and encountered Bedouin explorers , sand storms, etc. I learned this was repeated in 2015 by Outward Bound. I also found out that the ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos, took over from his dad, and in 1970-started the Renaissance. Before 1970, there was no electricity hospitals, etc. Today it is a fully functional, relatively modern country-but without the glitzy high rises of the UAE. Qaboos wants to retain the heritage and old look. I also learned that they are huge into fishing and oil (of course)-and thus are quite wealthy. By the way, Frankincense is grown here-from a tree. That is a lively sweet fragrance that basically everybody smells like.

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After a few hours in the museum, I walked the 3 miles along the beach path, past old forts, back to the Mutra souk, (where I was yesterday), walked around a little, and sat by the promenade at sunset, people watching, and watching the MSC Splendida sail off. Then I took the public bus back downtown, to my office (at Burger King), where I am now.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 09:12 Comments (0)

OMG in OMAN-Looking up

As I mentioned in the earlier post. Yesterday started out rather horribly.

- The hotel had no wifi
- There we're no brochures on attractions available.
- The clerk at the front desk was of no help. He spoke little English, and couldn't direct me to any attractions.

In addition
- The tv in the room wasn't working
- I needed to pay in cash, and the closest ATM to the hotel wasn't accepting my card.

The only saving grace was when taking the taxi to the hotel, I passed a Sheraton not long before. I figured the Sheraton would at least have brochures, if nothing else. So I took a long walk up the hill to the Sheraton. A long the way, I met a bearded middle age guy who worked here and spoke little English. He wanted me to give me a card so I could sponsor him if he decided to visit the US.

I made it to the Sheraton. While I couldn't find brochures-I was able to access the internet at the business center. I even thought of checking out of the horrible place I was at, and checking into the Sheraton. When I discovered the price for a room at the Sheraton was "only" $207 per night (vs. less than $50 for where I was), I decided to grin and bear it and stay where I was. After checking my email doing my online things, I asked for a hotel employee for an atm, he pointed his way down another hill. Down the hill, I found a bus-stop for the hop-on hop-off bus. I also saw an ATM. I even found a burger king with free internet. I had to wait 20 minutes for Burger King to open (it opened at 10:00, but went in). I found out the internet was only available by requesting an access code which would be texted to me. The issue is that my cell phone only works if wifi is active-so this catch 22 wouldn't work in my favor. But a Burger King employee found a wifi username where I could use it for free. I checked the schedule for the hop-on hop-off bus, and learned it would be coming any minute-so I dashed outside to catch it.

Muscat, Oman is actually quite beautiful. The city is surrounded by beautiful cliffs. I rode the bus to the last place, which is called the Mutrah Souk, or a giant market, which is next to the cruise port. The Costa Meditteranea was in port, so many cruise passengers we're wandering around. I walked around the various stahls, which was fascinating, for a few hours. I saw beautiful mosques, and all.

After a few hours, I decided I wanted to modify my onward travel, to Cairo. I had a flight booked, but this one had was 14 hours, and I wanted to see what else there was. So I needed internet access-so I got back on the hop-on hop-off bus, and went to the only place with full internet I could rightfully use-Burger King. I went back there, and was able to find an earlier flight, at 8:00 on Thursday (the one before didn't leave until late night, and had a long connecting time).

After I was satisfied, I caught another hop-on hop-off bus to the Souk. I wanted to check in out more. I again went down many alleyways. This time, I walked behind the souk, up alleyways and hills, and saw the apartments people lived in. There we're stray cats every where. At one point, I came to chickens and roosters running around freely. When I saw this, the Costa Mediterranea was pulling out of port, and Con Te Partiro-Time to Say Goodbye was playing from the ship. This sound contrasted with the bok bok bok of the chickens and roosters running around.

By now the sun was going down, I walked around, and sat on the sea wall, watching people walk by ,and the water. I then decided to have dinner in the Souk. I ordered some fried food at a stand-didn't have small change, and a Omani woman with her hair covered paid for me-saying that I was her guest.

I was still hungry, I had some falafel, and I then I found a bus and took it back to the hotel.

Posted by DavidPearlman 22:48 Archived in Oman Comments (0)

OMG in OMAN

Yesterday I checked into the hotel in Muscat, Oman

It is far from everything

- The hotel clerk doesn't know about how to get anywhere, and barely speaks English
- The wifi in hotel doesn't work
- The tv in hotel doesn't work
- There are no brochures around.
- The hotel is in an area with nothing around it.

I am writing this from the business center at the Sheraton which is a hike up the road.

Posted by DavidPearlman 21:41 Archived in Oman Comments (0)

See ya UAE

Yesterday was my last day in the UAE. In Abu Dhabi-I took a walk along the Corniche-a giant walkway along the waterfront-for two hours in the morning. And then I called a taxi for the bus station. The bus ride would be about 2 hours to the Dubai airport. (where I could find the cheapest flight to Muscat, Oman). By the time I got here-I had 7 hours to kill. Which is good, i was able to book a flight to Egypt out of Oman, because I want to go there, and I saw that to gain entrance to Oman, I needed to show a return flight or continuing travel. I wanted to print out this proof-and started to panic because I couldn't find an internet cafe to print it out. An airport representative directed me to a suite of airline offices on the second floor. The only office that was occupied was someone who worked with Saudia airlines, and they helped me out.

Dubai is like no city I have ever seen before. Although there are no flying cars, the city looks like it is either (A) From the Jetsons, or (B) From Sim City, developed by some computer nerd playing all day in his basement.
There are futuristic buildings upon futuristic buildings. Many buildings seem like they just sprout out of the middle of the desert. A Metro system which is the longest driverless system in the world. Gigantic malls (one with a gigantic ice skating rink, another with a ski slope), with more American chains then there are in America. In addition to the usual Mcdonalds, Burger Kings, KFC's Wendys and Starbucks, I also found Hardees, Popeyes, Sbarros, Dennys, California Pizza Kitchen, Chillis, Tgi Fridays, Red Lobster, Texas Roadhouse, etc, etc. Ditto for stores, Of course there was The Gap-but also Bath and Body Works, Tiffanys, Bloomingdales, Modells Sporting Goods, etc.
The skys we're gray the first two days I was here, -which was disturbing because I pictured the desert being comprised of endless summer days-the remaining 12 days, however-we're exactly like that. Not a single cloud anywhere-just hot, unrelenting sun. It even started to get tiring there was so much sun.
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Abu Dhabi isn't quite as futuristic as Dubai-it looks more like a New York or other city. The tallest building here is only 99 stories tall. It did feature the largest indoor theme park in the world-called Ferrari World. Everything here is the largest, tallest, biggest and newest.

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All of the service workers (At least all I met) we're from either the Philipines, Pakistan, and other African nations. That includes the tour guides, bus dirvers,taxi drivers, etc. It's hard to find many natives. What is surprising is that despite all of the new construction (in Dubai, for example, supposidly a new largest mall in the world is being built, and a new tallest building in the world-although they already have both), there is a lot of unemployment. When I bought dinner last night in the food court of a mall-someone dropped off their resume. He was a grown man, and I could see his resume had his picture on it. I asked the manager, and he mentioned there there was a lot of unemployment over the past few years, and even for cashiers-there are so many people availalble who have cashier experience there is no need to hire someone without experience.

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Because it's difficult to meet someone who was actually born and raised in the UAE (someone who will talk to me anyway)-it is hard to get a sense of the place.

Right now, I am waiting for the plane to Muscat, Oman. I am in the Dubai airport-supposidly one of the most modern airports in the world. I got here 7 hours early from Abu Dhabi-and i found two things

(1) I couldn't check into my flight until 3 hours before, and there are very few places to eat and drink outside security. I spent a lot of that time at a Starbucks, which was one of the few places outside.
(2) There are digital signs trumpeting the fact that the airport has the best Wifi in the world. Despite the fact I am writing this offline because the wifi is too weak.

Posted by DavidPearlman 10:14 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

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