“How are you doing?” I asked my sister on the phone last Thursday.
“Yeah, I’m good,” came the reply, “How about we drive all the way to Oman this weekend?”
And just like that, the very next day, we—my two younger sisters, a friend and her mom, Masood, and I—left Sharjah for Muscat on a cloudy and wet January morning. We were driving down E11 or the Emirates Road (following the Hatta-Oman sign) by 8:30 am. We made a couple of stops, first for breakfast and another to fill up the tank, then came across the first check post a couple of hours later. They were randomly checking for passports; they let us go, but checked the passports of our friend and her mom.
These are the beautiful Hajjar mountains, and Hatta is the main town (although still a part of Dubai). It has a cooler climate, so people usually drive up here during weekends or holidays, the younger Emiratis racing each other in their flashy sports cars.
Anyway, so there were a couple of check points before we finally saw the passport office. It’s a pathetic-looking, makeshift office on the right side of the highway. You don’t want to miss this, however; if you continue driving into the Omani border, the officers there will send you back here to have that exit stamp on your passport!
We parked the car and welcomed the cold breeze hitting our faces. It was really cold. I couldn’t keep the camera steady. Yes, I started clicking away the moment my feet touched the border soil. We showed our passports to the young Emirati officer behind the window and had exit dates stamped on them. Our friend, however, wasn’t cleared to exit the country—her passport was expiring soon. To exit the border into Oman, passport and U.A.E. resident visa should be valid for the next 6 months. So she and her mom decided to drive back to Dubai.
We took turns taking pictures right in front of the passport officer’s window, smiling brightly. Six hundred and twenty-two photographs later, we spotted the “No Photography” sign, and quietly walked away. We’re law-abiding people like that.
Moments later the officer climbed down from the cabin and followed us. I thought he was coming to confiscate our cameras, but it turned out that he was worried that all of us were driving back to Dubai with the exit stamps and all. He left after being assured that we were indeed going to exit the country.
So we headed back to the parking lot and spent the next thirty minutes taking group pictures with the mountains as a backdrop. And we were enjoying the cold breeze; we’re deprived of such glorious weather for most part of the year.
Here’s a picture (back side, taken discreetly) of the passport/immigration office at the U.A.E. side of the border:
And then, here’s the passport/immigration office of the Oman side of the border—about an hour or so of drive later:
See the difference? Their office is grand! There weren’t many people around, probably due to the rain, so getting the visa was a breeze. We filled up a small form available at the counter, paid 50 dirhams ($14), and got a single entry visa that would allow us to stay in Oman for the next 28 days. Dirhams are accepted here, but beyond this point you would need to pay in riyals.
Our car’s insurance covers both the U.A.E. and Oman so we didn’t have a problem, but for those who don’t have insurance you can get one here. The officer will ask you to show the papers. He’ll give you a small piece of paper that you need to show at a few check posts into Oman.
On our way back into Dubai the following evening, we were asked to pay 2 riyals (19 dirhams) for this:
The officers at the Omani border were really nice and friendly. When my sister inquired if they had a city map in English, one of the guys behind the counter handed over six leaflets and two books, one of them in German.
“Um, this is in German,” my sister said, returning the book. “I don’t understand this language.”
“How about this one?” the guy asked, handing her a book in Chinese.
“Well, I think I’ll take the one in German,” my sister replied. “It has better pictures.”
We drove towards Oman, and asked the officer at the last check post for directions to Muscat.
“Go straight,” he explained, “then you see roundabout. After you see roundabout, you take right. Then go straight to Muscat.”
“Oh, that’s easy!” we said out loud and thanked him profusely.
“Drive safely!” he smiled back.
He gave us the correct directions alright. Except that he didn’t mention that Muscat was 300 kilometers away.