Sep 132015
 

Betty and I entered the United Arab Emirates at Dubai International Airport (DXB) late on Thursday, 13 August 2015.  I received a tourist visa, valid for 30 calendar days.  Since then, Betty has obtained her resident visa, and the arrival of her Emirates ID Card is imminent.  But the processing of my visa and so on, which is dependent on her having her visa and so on, has only begun as of this date.  My visa would have expired yesterday, Saturday, 12 September.  But Betty’s school, GEMS World Academy Dubai, graciously gave myself and two others a round trip via car to the nearest Omani border point on the afternoon of Thursday, 10 September.

The Border Run is well known in Dubai and the Emirates.  When expats cannot obtain their resident visas within 30 days of arrival, they must leave the country and re-enter to obtain another 30-day tourist visa.  From Dubai, the Border Run is typically 90 minutes by road to the Omani border post at Al Wajaja to the east of Hatta, UAE.

The trip was quite routine.  We passed out of the Dubai metro area and soon encountered reddish sand dunes, with considerable blowing sand.  I suspect this was an outlying section of the Empty Quarter, the world’s largest sand desert, which sits in the southern half of the Arabian Peninsula.  After the dunes, the land became progressively hillier and also somewhat greener (which is not really saying much).  We even thought we saw rain showers twice off in the distance!

A small piece of the country of Oman penetrates rather far into the Emirates, and our road crossed that piece.  We had to show passports to leave the Emirates and to enter Oman, and later to leave Oman and enter the Emirates again, but at these posts there were no visa-stamping services.  So on we pressed.

Then we encountered the town of Hatta, which seemed to be well-stocked with restaurants, shops, hotels, and so on, although we stayed on the main road and didn’t stop.

Several kilometers east of Hatta, we showed passports again to leave the Emirates again and enter Oman again.  By this time, the driver had provided us with Omani visa forms, which we had completed enroute.  Then, after several more kilometers, we encountered the Al Wajaja Border Post, which is in fact perhaps only ten kilometers west of the Gulf of Oman, part of the Indian Ocean.  We parked and went in.  The building is large, modern, well built and decorated, and clean.  There were several queues for visas when we arrived at about 6 PM.  We joined one and had the misfortune to be just behind a couple who were having apparent immigration trouble.  But once we got to the counter, it went very quickly, a matter of minutes.  We turned in our forms and paid 50 Emirati dirhams each – 12.50 Euros or about 13.75 US – and received both tourist entry visas and exit stamps from the Government of Oman.  Back in the car!

We drove back west to the Emirati border and found another large, modern, well built, clean building belonging to the Government of the United Arab Emirates, General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners’ Affairs.  We went in and joined another visa queue, which moved quickly.  We explained that we going back to Dubai and would be getting resident visas; the officer gave us new tourist visas without question or cost.  And off we went.  The trip back to Dubai was entirely uneventful, and the driver delivered each of us to our homes.

There are, it turns out, other ways to do the Border Run.  One can – and some companies pay for this – fly to Muscat, the capital of Oman, and get all the stamps at the airports.  Or one can simply stay in Dubai and pay 620 Dirhams – 155 Euros or 170 US – and get the new tourist visa in the right office.  But if you have the time to spare, want to see a bit of the territory, meet new friends, perhaps read a little, the Border Run by road is easily the easiest and cheapest option.

Sep 072015
 

Saturday evening Betty and I visited Ibn Battuta Mall here in Dubai.  Mohammad ibn Battuta was a native of Morocco and lived in the 14th Century.  He was one of the great travelers.  During his lifetime, he traveled much of the known world and made it all the way to China’s east coast and back.  His travels were recorded in “The Journey of ibn Battuta”.

Malls are a way of shopping life here (the suqs did not scale but they are still here for tourists), and after a while all the malls begin to look alike.  But Ibn Battuta is something else entirely!  A themed mall, it has six sections decorated after six of the lands Ibn Battuta visited: Andalusia, Tunisia, Egypt, Persia, India, and China.  The interior architecture and decoration, including the natural-looking ceilings, are well done and quite beautiful.

Not a bad selection of stores and places to eat, also.  And Novo Cinema, 23 screens (I think) plus IMax.

The mall is down by the Jebel Ali seaport.  One must pass through the the Ibn Battuta Gate building to get there – the building has a keyhole arch at least five stories tall, and the road runs through it at ground level.

I’ll be back!