Monday, December 29, 2008

Driving to Oman

Every 30-40 days, I have to drive to the Oman border with my sons. This is because they still do not have UAE residence visas - thanks to their father. So, until I can prove in court that he is a neglectful waste of space (case is held up until March), they have to exist on visit visas that are stamped for 30 days but give you 10 extra days. Luckily, we are one of the nationalities that is allowed to get a visa on entry at any border point, and so far, it is still free, though I would not mind to pay to keep my children with me - my only other alternative to this arrangement would be to send them to my mother in the US - where I know they would be fine, but still they are my children and my responsibility, and especially since their dad has abandoned them, I think they should be with me and secure in the fact that I would never do that.

I like the drive to Oman. We are between the mountains and the sea here, and as we get closer to the Oman border, both close in on us on either side until we find our selves with the mountains jutting up on our right side and the sea directly on our left. Nestled right at the bottom of the mountains are little clusters of houses and shops - like small villages - though I don't know if they would want to classify themselves as such. Goats and cows wander freely by the roadside in these little communities, grazing on what vegetation they can find and resting in the shade of random walls and trees, or catching warmth in sunny patches when it is cool outside.

The highway that takes you from the "city" here to the town at the border's edge ends in a small round-about. From there you take a right onto a much smaller, old road with barely visible speed bumps from which the yellow paint has worn off, so you must drive slowly through the little community or risk your car taking quite a beating. This time as we crept along the winding road, I noticed that the hang out of the hour for the town's bovine population were the few and rather small median strips on the roads. It was as if someone had sent an invitation informing all of them that those were the happening spots for the day. On every little barren strip in the road, there was at least one cow, standing or resting still and silent as statues as if waiting for some purpose, some event, of which only they were aware. Such things make me feel oddly happy to see... in fact the drive always puts me in a good mood - perhaps because it reminds me of Africa - the cows especially brought to mind a time when there was a drought in Kenya and the Maasai - who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the modernization around them - grazed their herds of goats and cattle on the median strips and landscaped vegetation in the middle of the city of Nairobi. Other things about the drive remind me of Africa as well - the plots thick with date palms around oases on the sea side - the funny desert trees with their flat tops, that bring to mind the spreading shape of the Mimosas that grow on the African Savannah. And of course the Omanis themselves - many of whom have ties to East Africa and are conversant in Swahili.

It was such a lovely day this Saturday, that I considered doing more than just the normal U-turn at the border and taking a drive further into Oman just too see it a bit and get a bite to eat somewhere. Two things changed my mind - Salman who got car sick and vomited in the toilet at the UAE border checkpoint - and the long line of tourists at the Oman check point. I guess, because it was a long weekend, many UAE expat residents and some tourists had got the idea into their heads to go to Oman for sight-seeing, diving and a change of scenery.

On the way back from the border, I noticed the cows had moved, and the median strips were empty.


Empress Anisa said...

Nice story, sis... made me feel like I was there! I like ur writing....

Anonymous said...

Did you go to Oman's border near Fujairah? :) I've never been to Oman yet. Can't wait to go. Salalah is very famous with locals for it's green scenery.

desertmonsoon said...

Thanks Empress :)

No, not the one near Fujairah, near Ras Al Khaimah (Khosab I think is the name of the part of Oman near there). It really is a lovely border post and usually it is very quiet and not busy there - sometimes there are goats hanging out there too :) But the UAE border post itself is new and nice.

I have done the Hatta route as well and that was horrible on the UAE side crowded, smelly dirty toilets and you will find men using the women's toilet (the Oman side was nicer)- so since I discovered this route, I am sticking with it