DAY 116/117: We’ve been pretty lucky with our departure flight times. Well, not really luck since I booked all of them myself…
Most of the flights have been in the late morning or early afternoon – giving the Bepkos plenty of time to awaken for Jeni to have her 5 cups of coffee, finalize packing, and locate all the items Kiddo was ready to leave behind… But that was about the change!
We’ve realized that many of the flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi were sandwiched in that lovely 11:00 PM to 3:00 AM time frame; and the flights out of CAI seems to follow in that vein. Scheduled an Oman Air flight to Muscat departing at 1:30 AM. At least this was going to be a Business Class flight so we could – hopefully – get some rest on the short 4-hour flight.
It was NOT fun checking out of the Four Seasons hotel while we still had a paid night to go (it was a package tour from the Nile Cruise), but at least we had company in our misery. Some of our new friends from the cruise were also on the bus to the airport as they too had Air France 1:30 AM flights over to Paris and then back to the Unites States.
It was a minimal wait at Business Class check-in and a pretty quick process through Immigrations, then a long walk to our terminal and the airport lounge. It was early in the “travel day” but E&S were taking this in stride. They can be the best of friends sometimes…
The lounge was both a Priority Pass lounge and a lounge for Business Class for a variety of other airlines. Truth be told, it was one of the weakest lounges we have visited so far.
Interesting note about the flight was that it seemed that about 90% of the passengers were men. Many appeared to be Egyptians, possibly traveling back to their jobs in Oman. Oman, like many of the other oil-rich Arab states, hires many 3rd party Nationals to work in their service industries*.
*Per a chart using 2016 data, 45% of the population of Oman are Foreign Nationals. This is actually quite low for the Gulf States. For instance, 89% of the UAE population and 90% of the Qatar population are Foreign Nationals. For comparison, the United States has a foreign population of 13-14%.
It was an early flight (don’t think the flight was long enough to be called a red-eye flight) but at least the seats were large and comfy, the pillows were actually the nicest I’ve had on an airline, the blankets were warm, and the flight staff were awesome!
Even though there was a meal for the flight, as soon as we were wheels up it was time to sleep. Because as soon as we reach Muscat, we needed to rent a car and drive 2-hours to our stop for the night. I think kiddos decided to try to food before failing asleep. I just wish the flight was a little longer.
It was nice to be in Oman. This was a country that both Jeni and I had read so many great things about and it is also a country that is typically under the radar for most Americans.
For those of you unaware, Oman is actually called the Sultanate of Oman. The current sultan – Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said – is an absolute monarch who has been ruling for the past 47 years. That is 3rd longest in the world behind Queen Elizabeth and Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei.
Since deposing his own father to become the sultan, his leadership has transformed Oman from a back-water country to a country at the forefront of Middle Eastern politics. Friends with both the United States and Iran, Oman has been instrumental in negotiations between Iran and the US as well as an important ally in the Iranian release of three American tourists/hikers detained in 2011. Oman is – in general – a progressive Mulsum country. There is even a Women National Day which is celebrated every 17th of October.
Back at the airport… both E & S were zombies once we arrived in Muscat and departed the plane. After purchasing our visas we proceeded to get assigned to the one surly Immigrations official. While the other lines were moving quickly, ours was scrutinizing every aspect of our passports and kept getting distracted (or annoyed) by S trying to fall asleep while standing in line.
Baggage was quick and we were through Customs in no time. However, we went through everything so fast it was too early to pick up the car from Hertz. So we needed to wait the 40 minutes until “the car arrived” at 8:00 AM.
Sprint International plan doesn’t cover Oman so no free data, and our SkyRoam device didn’t seem to want to work in Oman despite this country recently being added to the SkyRoam countries. So we headed out to the Omani desert old school style.
The drive was quite nice. Unlike the roads of many of the other countries we have driven through (Namibia I’m looking at you!), the Omani road system was incredible. Six lane highways paved through the mountains and new construction occurring all around. Plus, we get to see camels riding in the back of pick-up trucks!
Although the quality is sub-standard, these may be some of my favorite photos. The camel looked like he was actually enjoying the ride.
Finally arrived at Desert Nights Camp, located in the Wahiba sands, in time for a quick lunch, a quick nap, and then time for sunset on the dunes.
More to follow with our two full days in the desert… until then, we close with a photo of the Desert Camp.
Until then, أراك غدا (arak ghadaan)!
TOTAL MILES TRAVELLED TO DATE – 26,287 miles