The shipping from Iran to the United Arab Emirates is lengthy, rather chaotic and above all inscrutable. In the morning at 8 o'clock we are standing with seven vehicles at the port and then it is wait, wait, wait. Except for one vehicle, we all have the same agent who probably earns a golden nose with it. Until all have their papers, stamps and ferry tickets it is dark.
Loading starts at 9 pm and around midnight we finally cast off. We are not allowed to sleep in the car, but there are seats similar to economy class seating on the plane including dinner and breakfast. The crossing takes a good 11 hours and at the port in Sharjah it takes another 4 hours until we have paid all stamps and various fees. Then we are finally through. Welcome to UAE.
The United Arab Emirates, or UAE for short, was founded on December 2, 1971 and consists, similar to federal states, of seven individual emirates. Of these, Abu Dhabi is the largest emirate in terms of area and Dubai the best known. We arrive in the third largest city in the emirate of Sharjah, which has now almost grown together with Dubai. We first stand on the beach surrounded by the skyline of Dubai with a view of the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world at 828m. After Iran all this seems a bit unreal and completely crazy to us. But that we are now allowed to stand around here with our own car is somehow a cool feeling. But the contrasts are enormous and we have to deal with that first.
Apart from Heike and Bernd, with whom we have been traveling together since 2013, we met Susa and Pit at the shipping company who are travelling with their MAN, and Reinhard, also with MAN, who has taken a 2-year break and is travelling alone. Georg and Susanne with Action Mobil and their two dogs join us and so we are standing on the beach with five big Overlander Mobiles and somehow don't go unnoticed for long. Unfortunately, however, rather in the negative sense, because after the second night we are asked by the police friendly but certainly to look for something else because camping here is prohibited. And indeed, in UAE the prohibition list is clearly longer than the bid list what we may determine over and over again. There is only one beach in Dubai where you are still officially allowed to stand, at least until this area is also built on with a hotel or skyscraper.
It's not really a calm place due to the nearby highway and generator noise from some caravans. In addition, there is brisk helicopter traffic from the sheikhs' villas, which are located in huge estates on the beach, and from the 7-star luxury hotel Burj el Arab right next door, as well as the gigantic hotel Atlantis the Palm opposite. Also in sight is the third largest yacht in the world and the eighty man crew is waiting for the sheikh to make an excursion. If the word superlative had not yet existed, it would have been invented in Dubai at the latest. Everything here is a little bit bigger, nicer and better and if there is something not yet available it is being built. You could also say that decadence knows no bounds here. Nevertheless, we like it quite well and we have a lot of fun together.
We stay together with Susa, Pit and Reinhard and explore the area as a gang of five. This is not so easy, because what you think you see within reach is often dozens of kilometres away and can take hours in the chaotic traffic. Thus, the car better stays at home and we take the subway or a taxi.
We start our Dubai sightseeing at the Dubai Lagoon, the so-called Creek. In this part of the city old town buildings are currently being renovated or rebuilt with traditional materials. Over time, historical places are to be opened up for tourism again. With the wind towers, narrow streets and buildings, many things remind us of Iran.
On both sides of the river bank wooden boats (Dhaus) are anchored and bring, as in ancient times, goods from India, Iran, Singapore, Kenya, etc. The goods are transshipped here and transported directly to the nearby souq. There you will find everything your heart desires and accordingly the rush of tourists from all over the world is huge. Highlight is the gold souq with over 300 shops and jewellery up to 22 carats.
In the evening we go to the Dubai Mall, the world's largest of its kind. Alone the way from the Metro Station to the entrance is about 2 km long. Over 1200 shops are spread over 4 floors. In addition there are 200 restaurants, ice cream parlors, cafes and other food courts. In the house's own aquarium with underwater zoo, sharks, rays and other animals cavort. Not to forget the skating rink where you can skate all year round, even if the thermometer outside shows 50 degrees plus. Since all this was probably a little too small, the mall was expanded by 10,000 square meters with additional shops and entertainment facilities such as an electric kart racing track.
After dusk, a water show with music takes place every half hour in front of the Burj Khalifa, which is right next to the mall. In addition, the entire 828m high building is illuminated in different ways.
The Dubai Marina is not far away from our location and we got the tip from a local instead of going up to the Burj Khalifa, better check out the Roof Top Bar in the Marriot Hotel. From the 64th floor you have a wonderful panoramic view of the marina and you can see very well the palm tree structure with the villas, hotels and apartments. Afterwards we stroll along the marina and admire the different designs of the many skyscrapers.
We soon have enough of skyscrapers, traffic and noise and drive over to the west coast to Bidya. There we also meet Rieke & Olaf again who we met in Armenia. But it's not really nice there either and in the evening the place is party zone of the locals who have some days off in honour of the 48th anniversary of the UAE.
To escape the hype and celebrations of the anniversary we leave UAE and head north to the Oman enclave of Musandam. About 32,000 people live on the northernmost tip of the Arabian Peninsula and it was not until 1980 that the age of telecommunications began here. Before that, telephone, radio and television were unknown. Until 1992 the whole peninsula was a military restricted area and not accessible for tourists. Here one looks in vain for skyscrapers and the entire coastline resembles a maze of fjord-like bays and lagoons and bears the nickname Norway of the Middle East. Shortly before the main town Kashab we find a nice place at the Bassa Beach.
Of course we also want to see the peninsula from the sea side and make a 6 hour boat trip with a Dhau into the 16 km long sea inlet Khor Shimm. The water is crystal clear and dolphins accompany us on the trip. We pass two small villages with 50 inhabitants each which are only accessible from the sea. The children living there are taken by boat to the school in Kashab on Sundays and are taught similarly to boarding schools there. On Thursdays they go back home to spend the weekend (Friday and Saturday) at home.
There is also a 400 year old Portuguese fort in the village. It is beautifully restored and worth a visit. The mountains in the hinterland are partly impassable and when it rains, the roads are often washed away and are not passable for days. Because rain is announced we drive only 20 km into the mountains to a nice viewpoint and then back again.
There is not much more to discover in Musandam and we leave this part of Oman and drive back to Dubai and there a little bit outside to the so-called Love Lakes, an artificial lake district in the middle of the desert. The water is pumped from huge tanks which are regularly filled by tankers. Out of nowhere a nesting place for various bird species and at the same time a recreation area for the locals has been created.
On the way to Abu Dhabi we stop at a Camel Race Track and want to find out when you can watch such a race. In the administration building we ask around and finally end up with the financial manager who takes almost an hour for us, treats us with tea and dates and then also looks at our vehicles and poses for a selfie. The race is not until the weekend and we are supposed to come back then. An incredible hospitality.
We drive on to Abu Dhabi and after a meal at the fish market we go to a big place by the sea.
Abu Dhabi wants to become an art metropolis in the coming years and attract the masses with world-class museums such as the Louvre and the Guggenheim Museum, which is still under construction. And we have to acknowledge without envy that the Louvre has already been more than successful. The architecture of the building alone and its location, practically in the middle of the water, is sensational. And the exhibition in more than 12 rooms from early times to modern times can certainly compete with the world's leading museums.
After a stroll through the canyons of houses in the city centre, we end the day with a delicious Asian buffet.
The next morning we visit the third largest mosque in the world. Despite 40.000 visitors per day, one does not have the feeling of being overrun. The organization is very good and the masses are very cleverly channelled. The building itself is a feast for the eyes. The four minarets rise 107m into the sky and 1096 outer columns support the building, which is crowned with 82 domes and decorated with marble. The entire mosque holds 41,000 people on an area of 22,412 square metres. And if that is not enough superlatives, we would like to point out the largest hand-knotted carpet in the world, covering 5700 square meters, and the 9.5 ton crystal chandelier. A unique experience and a "must" when visiting Abu Dhabi, even if the ladies have to disguise themselves once again.
We spend the afternoon with a tea at the Emerates Palace Hotel, among connoisseurs the most luxurious hotel in the world. Unfortunately, the three bedroom suite for our gang of five was not available for the bargain price of 5000 euros per night and so we had to be content with a coffee. But it was served as a cappuccino decorated with gold dust. At the sunset, we then visited a Roof Top Bar in one of the numerous skyscrapers in front of it. We had to take a taxi home, because our truck keys somehow didn't fit at the McLaren parked downstairs.
On the way back from Abu Dhabi we passed the Camel Race Track again. Actually there was a race going on there and we were even able to ride in the camera car and at a race speed of 50km/h we were able to drive the 5km long track at eye level next to the camels. The jockey is a robot equipped with a radio and whip. The owners of the racing camels drive with the car on the same level as the track and give commands by radio or activate the whip. We were greeted everywhere in a friendly manner as if we had always been part of it and could also have a look at the preparation area. Most of the time it is young animals that take part in the race and they have their mum with them to calm them down until they are led into the starting area.
In the afternoon we will set up on a beautiful spot at an abandoned camel race track and have a day's rest there. The next day a local comes by and is very excited when he finds out that we drove here with the cars from Germany. He has a horse ranch nearby and we absolutely have to come for dinner in the evening. Shortly before 6 pm he picks us up and takes us to his ranch. He has beautiful animals for Endurance Races, which are long distance races up to 120 km. His brothers come by and bring five hunting falcons. For the first time we can watch these beautiful animals very close and Reinhard is even very brave and holds a falcon in his arms.
Then he has to introduce us to his neighbours and friends who are watching TV in an open air living room.
Afterwards we will go to the Sheikh Zayed Festival which is taking place very close by. It's basically like a fairground in our country, only a bit more exotic and men and women go separately. Hamid knows God and the world and constantly hands are shaken and welcome rituals are exchanged whereby the men touch each other with their noses. We have a lot of fun together and Hamid does not miss the opportunity to invite us to dinner. Only around midnight we are back at our cars.
We drive back to Dubai and stand at the Al Sufouh Beach again. In the afternoon we make an excursion to the Hotel Atlantis the Palm. Although we can see it well from our place, we have to take a taxi for about 20 minutes to get there. Because of the prices we do the visit without an afternoon tea and swimming with dolphins and are content with a Starbucks coffee. The hotel is also a big amusement park with a huge aquarium which is freely accessible. Otherwise there is not much to see except luxury cars and a lot of Asians, who probably spend their holidays there.
The next Morning we drive to the Traveller Festival in Musharif Park. The meeting is taking place for the eighth time and is sponsored by the Crown Prince who is actually present at the opening. There is not much going on, apart from us there are about 10 more trucks or campers. Over three days there will be lectures held by different people who have all done some crazy things, like walking around the world, kayaking across the Atlantic, riding with a camel 40.000 km through the deserts of the world, drive with a Vespa from Italy to Vietnam. In the parking lot there are a few luxury cars and two police cars, an Audi R8 and a McLaren. I immediately filled out a letter of application for a job with the police in Dubai.
Now we are on the way to Oman where we want to spend the next 2 months. How we are doing there and what we experience you will find out in the next blog. Until then have fun reading and looking at the pictures.
We wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year. We would be happy if you continue to accompany us on our journey in 2020, which will then already be in its eighth year.