Sunday, December 24, 2006

Unexpectedly Veering South

When I was in Iran this Summer I began looking into this stage of my trip, taking vague ideas and trying to see if they could work. My initial plan was to skirt the southern shores of the Mediterranean and cross into Europe at the Straights of Gibraltar. Further research quickly showed that option to be impossible due to visa restrictions in Libya and Algeria. Then I thought I'd cross Turkey and enter into Europe in Greece or Bulgaria, but the cold weather in Anatolia dissuaded me from European travel in Winter. So by default, and without much of a plan I headed south into Syria. Almost as soon as I arrived in Syria I received an e-mail from my oldest friend from my schooldays back in Scotland. Michael lives in London now but his mother is currently working in Oman and he invited me to spend Christmas with them out there. Initially I dismissed the idea as I had never considered the Arabian peninsula as part of my trip and it would entail a certain amount of "backtracking". However the more I thought about it the more the idea grew on me: I wouldn't be spending Christmas alone; I would get to see Michael again (I had last seen him in Melbourne) and hang out with him a bit; I would get to go to Yemen afterwards, a place I have wanted to visit for quite some time now; and it would mean that I could escape the cold Winter weather in Europe. So I started looking around for buses that would take me from Amman to Dubai, from where I could get a connection on to Muscat. I was glad to find there were departures every day and so set off for the Saudi embassy to get a transit visa ... and that's where I ran into trouble. They refused me point blank. They would give no reasons, they weren't prepared to discuss it, not even for a transit period of 24 hours, they just slammed the proverbial door in my face and no amount of pleading or grovelling would make them change their minds. That made me really angry as it forced me to have to fly, something I really didn't want to do (because of the increased damage to the environment, the increased cost and also because of the breaking of my principles) especially as there are buses. I've come to the conclusion that the harder it is for you to get into a country the more autocratic they are and the more they have to hide. If that is so then Saudi Arabia must be one of the most repressive in the world. But I have learned not to stay angry for too long, as it just gets in the way of things, and found myself a cheap flight to Sharjah from where it was possible to catch a bus to Oman. And so now I am writing to you from balmy Muscat where I have a view over the Gulf of Oman.

It is early morning on Christmas Day and I wish you all a very merry Christmas, surrounded by friends and family, wherever you may be.

1 comment:

Yann said...

Hi Erik,

Have a little bit of courage!
That's not so cold in Europe, there is just a huge fog over west Europe since a week and the temperatures are so high that I got just enough snow for my second lesson of Snowboard!

I give you 2 main reasons to go back in Europe this winter:
1/ I will organize a huge Party for my Birthday on Februar, 10th and your help would be appreciated to beat the record of last year with 180 liters beer

2/ The Carnaval season starts just a week later...

I wish you a happy new year!

Yann