We have quit our jobs and sold our house. Here you can follow us on our travels.
The enlightened dictatorship
The enlightened dictatorship is a phrase supposedly invented by the Danish kings who ruled Norway thru the 17th and 18th centuries. They wanted to tell the people that they were fit to rule because they were born smarter than most others. Of today’s royals, the Sultan of Oman might be among the closest we come to a royal who fulfils that particular requirement!
We do not know him personally, but we have visited his country and his capital city. The Sultan has absolute political power, but he has spent the country’s oil money giving his subjects better infrastructure, better health, better education and not least better opportunities for women than most other rulers in the Arab world. He is not quite a Scandinavian social democrat yet, there are political prisoners in his jails that would testify to that if ever given the chance, but still we found Oman a very unexpected positive surprise.
Our ship first came to Dubai however, where we never went near the skyscrapers and the tallest hotels in the world. We could not care less about the convoys of sports cars that tour the town when the Ferrari-club holds their champagne-and-caviar-meetings. In the cruise terminal we passed a large model of the new marina that the city is promoting. It was all about super yachts for the super rich. One of our waiters at the Luminosa told us what that meant in practical terms; it means working for the Trumps and the Abramowitzes of this world earning 350 dollars a month if you are lucky. Our friend does not get rich on the Luminosa either, but at least moving there made him triple his salary!
We spent one day in Dubai going for a desert excursion, finding out first hand how hard it is to walk the tiniest little hill when sand as smooth as sugar flows like water around your feet. It was an interesting experience, but it did not change the fact that we could not get away from Dubai fast enough.
After Dubai we came to Oman and the capital city of Muscat. For the ignorant tourist, this city has an Arabian atmosphere that Dubai tried very hard not to show us. At least nobody flung vulgar luxury in our face every step we took, and that alone put us in a better mood.
We did a city tour of the Grand Mosque, The Opera House, The National Museum and the Royal Palace, all relatively new institutions built after the currant Sultan Qaboos bin Said started modernising the country in the 1970ties. We spent half our time in a nice city market and a friendly sidewalk cafe. Oman has a reputation as a safe place where a western tourist still can travel without being beheaded on every street corner. You need to look no further than to the neighbouring Yemen to find a country where this is unthinkable.
Oman is Muslim in a very traditional and conservative way, but militant fundamentalism has not reach its borders. Women have a place in politics, even if politics are not about final decisions since all power rests with the Sultan. Still, this is quite a few steps closer to the 21st century than Saudi Arabia, another neighbour, where women cannot even drive a car!
We do not claim to know all about Oman, nor do we claim the Oman is an Arabian heaven on earth. But give us the choice between travelling to Dubai, or God forbid travelling to Qatar to watch the disgusting 2022 Football World Cup; and we will choose Oman any day!
In Dubai we took a Costa excursion into the desert.
We were not totally alone however; there were about 150 other cars and 800 other tourists coming with us.
There were also a handful of camels we could hire for a ride. We didn’t.
There were a few little hills we could climb. Professor D, a friend from the Luminosa dinner table, climbed them with us.
He climbed faster than us, however, as he carries no more than half our bodyweight. This turned out to be a huge advantage.
ES gave up half way.
Sitting down in on a slope, the sand ran like water into our shoes. DHH made it up a 40-metre hillside, sliding 90 cm down for every metre he climbed up. The climb took him a full 5 minutes.
The wind makes untold numbers of different patterns in the sand, like giant fingerprints.
Professor D disappearing over the next hill. He better be careful, this is not the place to get lost!
This is how Dubai wants you to remember it. Every reference to any item or exhibition in the giant cruise terminal hall is about luxury in one shape or another.
This is Dubai to us. Local tradition, in this case horse racing, has been turned a high tech piece of art surrounded by a rope to make sure nobody gets too close to it. In the background a rotating sign tells us Dubai loves us.
If anything impressed us, it was the skills of those who parked these cars. They stand on the pier ready for further transport. This picture is not photoshopped!
Gudbai to Dubai and our neighbour, the Aida-Stella!
Muscat. To the left, the Luminosa, now anchored in the capital of Oman. Our neighbour here was the Aida-Aura.
This is a dhow, the ocean going vessel that once made it possible for the Sultan of Oman to stretch his empire down the coast of East Africa all the way to Zanzibar.
This is a traditional Oman mountain village, but not a pic taken from the air. It is of a model in a museum, and it shows the structure of the 2500-year-old irrigation system that is still the backbone of local agriculture.
Old mountain fortresses and watchtowers are seen all over the country, also in the capital city.
The royal palace in Muscat is for representation only; the Sultan and his family live somewhere else.
The Grand Mosque of Muscat.
A local family visiting the mosque, having their picture taken.
We spent a good bit of time in the souk, finally finishing our Christmas shopping.
ES is not always easy to impress, but this guy got her into his shop. It turned out to be mutually profitable.
Having had costumers from all over the world, he has built up an impressive collection of bank notes that he is happy to show.
Our salesman shows DHH the sort of headgear the sultan and other nobilities of Oman wear.
The final result. We did not buy this particular item, but we bought enough other stuff to keep our new friend happy.
Does DHH actually look like the Sultan? You can all judge for yourselves.
Some more pictures from the same market.
This chap is weighing up the dates we will be serving at this years Christmas’ party.
The closest we came to the Sultan was a view of his private yacht, here in the centre of the picture.
A local family looking at the birds at the seaside of downtown Muscat. This lady wears a veil, but the vast majority of the women we saw here did not. On average, we meet as many faceless women on Oxford Street in central London as we do in Muscat.
We found Muscat a rather pleasant city. No doubt there are vast fortunes hidden behind some of the traditional facades, but you are not hit over the head with the lust for luxury like you are in The Emirates.