UAE Part 2
10/12 Another week goes by and we head off into the desert again. This time to the South, to the Liwa Oasis. Lars and I leave earlier and find a camp spot in the desert. Stephan joins us after work at the camp site. On the way we stop to have a look at the car collection of the Rainbow Sheikh. We are just in time to watch the arrival of one of his mobile homes:
The globe on the left is another mobile home. This truck is another one. It's a scale "model" of a Dodge Power Wagon, about 3 times the size of the original (just visible on the left). There is a complete apartment in the tray, the tailgate is a balcony and there is a master bedroom behind the radiator grille, where in the real thing the engine would be. It's supposedly the largest "car" in the world.
Amazing what you can do if you have too much money, isn't it? Near our campsite there is a new radio tower and I can't resist climbing it to the first platform, from where I get a good view. You can just see the almost empty 4-lane highway stretching to the horizon, complete with rows of irrigated greenery either side and street lights. This connects Liwa oasis with the coastal highway and is about 110 km long. Amazing... Also stretching to the horizon in all directions is the desert, of course.
The oasis lies on the edge of the so-called "Empty Quarter", Rub al Khali, the biggest sand desert on Earth. Most of this lies in Saudi Arabia, but the UAE has its share. We more or less ignore the oasis proper, being mainly a collection of modern villages connected by the same type of motorway-like road as above, and head South towards Tal Moreeb, a massive dune. The dunes around here are generally very big and they have built a new road to it, which winds its way up and down and around the dunes, making for a wonderful ride after all the long boring straights. We enjoy this ride very much, but have to watch out for sand drifts.
That speck in the centre is...
The colours in the desert never cease to amaze me
In the morning I walk to the top of the dune:
Back to Sharjah. We are now finally packed up and ready to leave, together with Stephan, who will accompany us one more time this weekend.
13/1/2007 Stephan, driving his dark-green monster, takes us into Wadi Bih. This is a wadi at the Southern end of the Musandam peninsula. Since this is Omani territory there is a UAE checkpoint, where a guard records our details in a book, but no border processing as such takes place. A little further on there is the famous Omani army checkpoint, where nobody is allowed to go on the track North, but going East into the wadi here is no problem. The formalities consist of saying "As-salaam alaikum" to the guard and shaking his hand, telling him we're going to Wadi Bih and he opens the barrier for us.Dibba and we're back in the UAE, although there is no border post here at all. We make our way down the coastal highway, stopping off at Bibyah Mosque, the UAE's oldest, and the mangroves in the nature reserve of Khor Fakkan. Nice, but this doesn't keep us for long. Back into the wadis where we pitch our tents for the night. Our support vehicle provides us with all the provisions we need, like kebabs, grill and firewood and we have a very pleasant evening again. In the morning we find Wadi Sharm, which Stephan was very keen to show us. However, we find the going in the deep gravel very tough and leave it at the next opportunity. Next stop is Hatta with its nice Heritage Village, where we can see how people used to live until very recently. Jebel Hafeet, its highest mountain. A 3-lane illuminated highway leads to the top, where there are hotels and a sheikh's palace. The road is a biker's dream with long sweeping bends and a smooth surface. If it wasn't so hazy the views from the top would be amazing. Strangely, there is a track bulldozed from the top car park almost to the top of the mountain, but it's behind a locked gate, so we can't even walk there. After enjoying the views for a while we head back down to the border. For Lars it's farewell to the UAE and to Stephan while I intend to return in a couple of months or so. As a final farewell the customs people at the border post make a complete mess of our carnets, stamping and removing import vouchers while we are leaving the country. We have to show them how it's done and Lars even stamps his own carnet! Well, this is a new border post and I'm sure they have never heard of a carnet before, let alone seen one.