UAE Part 1

Al-Imārāt al-ʿArabiyyah al-Muttaḥidah  -  United Arab Emirates

See Wikipedia article on the UAE.

4/12 The boat arrives a lot later than we were told, but this doesn't matter to us. The formalities take 2 1/2 hours and we discover that vehicles are carried on this ferry as freight, which means a lot of paperwork and expense. There is some confusion among the crew as to where we should go, so we end up not going through immigration with the other passengers. While doing the paperwork we end up walking out of the port without entry stamps. When I ask the very friendly customs staff about where to go for immigration they are very concerned and escort us to the immigration hall. There, we have to undergo an iris scan! With the aid of Lars' GPS we find the flat of Stephan in Sharjah, who very kindly puts us up in his roomy modern flat, with a luxury room each! First impressions: most people speak good English, the place is quite well organised and people are very friendly. Prices are more or less on par with Europe, i.e. very expensive for us.

Sharjah skyline

7/12 We ride into Dubai daily, seeking out the embassies. The UAE cities are very large, modern and busy, with almost permanent traffic jams. The roads are very large, but not large enough for the traffic. I get a visa for Oman, but apparently I could get it at the border, too. For Yemen we don't need visas, they tell us. Lars takes his expensive camera in for repairs. He's dropped it in Iran and the main board is broken. It takes 3 weeks to get parts from Japan, so that's not an option. His bike also has problems. We are hoping that a friend of Stephan's will let us use his backyard to carry out repairs. At the German consulate I apply for an introduction letter for a Pakistani visa. It's expensive and takes a day. One parcel for Lars arrives. It's the important one wth all the sweets. No sign of either parcel for him or me with our spare parts.

When the sands shift the roots can get exposed.

There is some greenery in the desert after the rain and these bushes have flowers.

8/12 It's Friday, the weekend and Stephan takes us in his dark-green monster into the desert. There is a bike race somewhere which he finds eventually, but this is quite boring to watch, so we go for a drive. Quite amazing what the Nissan Patrol can do with deflated tyres.

Sharjah Heritage Area, the sad remainders of the old town. Lots of coral in the walls.

22/12 Time was whiled away here in Sharjah, me mainly waiting for Lars to wait for his parts. My own parcel arrived after one month, but not without me going into the post office in the free trade zone and making enquiries. Lars continues to have bad luck: when his parts package arrives it contains junk instead of the parts he asked for. Somebody back home has made a big booboo. He arranged to have his rear shock serviced (nothing wrong with it, but necessary for warranty (!). The shop kindly permitted us to work on his bike and we make good use of this. However, as we work on his bike we keep finding broken things: front fork bushes completely worn, ignition coil exploded (literally), front wheel bearings and steering bearings dead and the starter motor broken. He manages to find a number of compatible starter motors at some used parts shops, but only one of them is prepared to sell him the starter without the complete engine attached. Well, one is eonough. We fix most things, but the fork bushes have to remain as they are. Meanwhile, one weekend Stephan takes us out for a fun day riding dirt bikes in the sand dunes and last night he took me camping in the desert with his friends Val and Pete. The two guys bash around the dunes in the morning, which I spend in interesting and deep conversations with Val. Lars stayed behind in the flat working on his website.

And so it's Xmas time again and we are invited, something both Lars and I weren't keen on, but it's very nice of Stephan all the same and he has organised a turkey for dinner.

PC280030 PC280031 Dubai City: glitzy scyscrapers, building cranes and 14 lanes of traffic jam

2/1/2007 We intended to leave after Xmas, but the repair of Lars' camera takes a lot longer than he was first told, so we are still in Sharjah. It should now be ready on the 10th. Since I don't need to be back here before March I'm not worried. Over the Eid/New Year holidays we go with Stephan (in the car) to the Musandam peninsula. The idea is to leave the UAE, as our permits are running out, explore the peninsula, which is an Omani exclave. On our return we get new permits for 30 days. While the UAE is mainly flat (at least the parts we have seen so far), this peninsula is very steep country indeed.

Khasab

Leaving the UAE takes a long time, as many Indian expats are heading in the same direction as we are, overwhelming the UAE border officials. The Omani side is rather quick. The ride along te coast road to Khasab, the only town in the exclave, is spectacular and a biker's dream. The town itself is rather sleepy. We hire a speedboat for a trip through the scenic fjords.

In the afternoon we take the only piste inland for a look at a bay called Khor an-Najd. Taking another dead-end track we camp in an acacia grove. This is quite weird: the whole peninsula is dry and barren, but here, at the top end of a wadi, there are lots of trees and the ground is green and damp. It's the ideal place for a camp, only spoilt by a very strong and gusty wind that starts up in the evening and goes on all night.

The next day is fine, but still very windy. After another quick look at the bay, but now in sunshine, we turn South onto the mountain track to Dibba. Not being Omanis we won't be allowed to go right through, but we want to go to the top of the pass for the views. However, Lars' bike needs some more attention, so this gets cut short. We make a quick dash back to Sharjah, where Stephan collects his trailer with bike, then we join his friends camping in the desert. To get there we have to ride a couple of km through soft sand and over dunes. Lars drops his heavy bike a few times, so we deflate the tyres which actually makes it quite fun to ride in places.

Oops! I think this translation mistake pretty well expresses how they do things around here...