The BIG 150 - and then some! (Oman & Yemen)

Day 1,744 since October 10th 2013: 151 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.  

One small read for you – one giant milestone for the Saga!

pano

I’ve got so much to tell you this time! Where should I start? Well, how about I begin by telling you about one of my idols. Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish poet and story teller. I once heard that he had an abnormally large vocabulary which enabled him to sit comfortably with royalty one night - and with the slum of the city on the next.

What an amazing ability to have. Imagine if you could treat everyone with the same amount of respect and sit down with anyone as if you were a social chameleon. H.C. Andersen was born into very humble beginnings and yet he grew up to mingle amongst the most wealthy and powerful people in society. He would dine with nobility and he would frequent royalty. It has been speculated that he might have been the illegitimate son of the king but we all know how people like to talk. H.C. Andersen was Danish and I just so happen to be born in his city (Odense) long after he left our world. I would have been young when I first heard about his ability to transcend different social classes with ease and it has always inspired me.

Dubai trio

Thank you Juanita and Iain!! Love you guys! :)

A week ago I was still on the 13th floor of a modern residential building in Dubai. I was being hosted by Juanita and Iain which was nothing less than a blessing. While Juanita was mostly working, Iain and I would tour the city and we even made it out to Abu Dhabi which is the largest of the seven emirates. The UAE is such a unique country here on earth. While driving through the desert on the almost empty four lane highway to Abu Dhabi I had a thought. The UAE has often been criticized for its expat communities of hard laboring Indians and Bangladeshis who arrive to work on the extensive construction projects. A classic scenario would be that they fly to the UAE on a contract where they obligate themselves to hand over their passport until they have repaid the cost of the flight ticket through labor. Meanwhile they are provided with meals and accommodation. So that sounds like a fair deal? There’s no work back home and the plentiful work in the UAE pays better so a bargain is made: “you can’t pay for your ticket so I will pay it for you but then you need to pay it back before you start earning money. Meanwhile I’ll take care of transport, meals and accommodation”. Do these expats live luxurious lives? No, probably not. But my thought on the matter was a completely different one. My thought was centered on how we mostly all accept that some people in India and Bangladesh live vastly differently from what we do in the western world and that we would never accept their living conditions in our respective countries. But we will still buy the products which they produce and wear the jeans. In western countries we are not attached to them because they are on the other side of the planet and the equality gap is thus diminished from the debate. In the UAE these people have simply been brought closer to the beneficiaries...and in many cases the living conditions are probably better than what they were before. It was just a thought...I hope you get my point...

Dubai view

All this is man made!! Including the creek!!

Juanita, Iain and I had a great time together. The UAE caters well to the expat community with attractions, events, sports bars, restaurants, tax exemption and much, much more. It was far from all fun and games though. Iain and I achieved to have the Yemen visa put into my passport after sitting down with the Consular General in Dubai. There was a calm demeanor about him and he was outmost polite. I presented the Saga for him and explained how far we have come. He took interest in the Saga and promised to call his authorities in Yemen. The Consular General also asked me to write a handwritten letter regarding my wish to visit Yemen. I wrote that letter while sitting at his desk while Iain and the Consular discussed the World Cup. The next day Iain and I received notice that I could collect my visa. So that was the bureaucratically part of visiting Yemen (the logistics was a completely different ordeal). We also managed to meet with the head of visa section for Saudi Arabia. He’s such a delightful man who has likewise taken great interest in the Saga and has promised to help. The decision however needs to be made in Saudi Arabia and the request for this highly unique visa has now reached government levels. Only a handful of people have received this visa in the past forty years. I was advised that the process may take up to two months and that no guarantees are given. However this is certainly good news. This is the closest we have gotten to visiting Saudi Arabia since I began visiting embassies six months ago. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and our minds positive.

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Al Jabal Al Akhdar, Oman. My view to come!

With the UAE becoming country number 149 the Sultanate of Oman was scheduled to become country number 150!! That is no small thing without flying! And I’d once again like to stress that visiting countries by flying and doing so without the convenience are two completely separate things. Those who have traveled sufficiently will testify to that. The Saga was able to reach out to Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort and make a deal. Anantara was happy to celebrate the BIG 150 with me and in return I have been making several posts from the luxury resort on social media. But first I had to get there. ‘Anantara’ is Sanskrit and means ‘never ending’. There’s a fairly interesting story about the highly successful business which begins with the founder (William Heinecke) having a vision before the age of 18. His young age prohibited him from accomplishing his dreams which eventually lead to his group of hotels being named ‘Minor International’ when he finally succeeded. Anantara is a part of the Minor group. ‘Jabal’ is the Arabic word for ‘mountain’ and ‘akhdar’ means ‘green’. So that gives away the location of the highest five star resort in the Middle East and one of the highest in the world. Al Jabal Al Akhdar is actually a very attractive part of Oman which people seek to visit from all over the world. The resort itself sits at 2,095m (6,873ft) above sea level and that provides a cool getaway from the high temperatures of the lowlands. 

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Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, Oman. Five star luxury!

Somehow I managed to mix up the dates of my stay. I was absolutely sure that my stay at Anantara began on July 15th when it really did on July 14th. Not usually a big problem but the resort sits high up in the mountains far from Muscat. 170 km (105 mi) to be exact. Furthermore Jessi Chai, Assistant Marketing Manager, had planned out an eventful stay for me which involved several people. I only learned about my embarrassing mistake when I began to receive messages in the afternoon on the 14th asking where I was? As per agreement Jessi had sent a luxury 4WD to Muscat in order to pick me up. With everything going on I might be easy to forgive – but I felt like a complete moron!! I apologized to Jessi who was top professional and managed to move the dates for me. But she was unable to collect me in Muscat so I had to make my own way up into the mountains. No problem – or? It was late in the afternoon and it is a requirement that only 4WD’s climb the mountain road. I was struggling for a while to work out if I was going to rely on a taxi of sorts, rent a car or try to work it out when I reached Muscat. Iain and Juanita had a point as they suggested that it might not be worth the hassle and the time to go to the resort. But I wanted to make it work! And hours later I had managed to secure an online booking for a 4WD.

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Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, Oman. Five star luxury!

Juanita, Iain and I went out that night and had a great time at Cargo, a unique restaurant with a brilliant view. I stayed up until 02:00am that night getting the last administrative tasks in order. Then I got up at 06:00am so we could reach the early morning bus to Muscat in Oman. Juanita and Iain dropped me at the bus and then I took off. It wasn’t a good bus for sleeping. I couldn’t really find a position that suited me and I was also curious to see what was outside the windows. We quickly reached the border and it went pretty smooth although I found the Omani immigration to be very lax with their time. How many borders have I crossed? Who can say? I stood there in the sun alongside all the other bus passengers with all our luggage neatly lined up in front of us. A uniformed man appeared with the least threatening dog I have ever seen in my life. This quiet dog sniffed our bags and then the bus while it clearly wanted to take part but also certainly felt the heat. We all felt the heat. And that was it! The Saga had reached 150 countries in a single unbroken journey completely without flying. I sometimes wonder how many world records exists within the Saga. Wouldn’t this almost certainly be the longest unbroken journey on earth of any kind? We are close to 200,000 km (124,000 mi) now and we still have a long way to go.

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Now "just" 53 to go...

The bus finally reached Muscat International Airport which is brand new! So new that nobody knew where the rental car companies where. It took me a while but I finally found them, got my car and was on my way. Does anyone else see the irony in that my first stop in Oman was the airport?

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Al Jabal Al Akhdar still holds water...although less than in the past.

Oman is stunning!! I’ve met many people throughout my life and I have only heard good things about Oman. Some even say it’s the perfect country. Expats which I have met in Oman say they love it and want to stay. It almost always comes back to the people when the talk falls on Oman: “the Omani are just such wonderful people”. The landscape is gorgeous too! In the beginning the mountains just looked like large piles of brown dirt. But then they quickly became majestically in their appearance. A couple of hours later I rolled into the compound of the Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort. A valet took care of the 4WD and handed me a ticket. Someone else ran off with my luggage. I approached the reception and was handed a cold hand towel to refresh myself. I was given a welcome drink and soon enough Jessi approached to welcome me in person. Bliss!! If there ever was a way to celebrate such an accomplishment – then this was it!! It was 6pm so I just checked into my room and took in the view from my porch which faced the plateaus drop into “the green mountains”. And then I immediately got back to answering emails, updating social media and all the other administrative tasks the Saga presents. If anyone EVER tries to copy this project then I will follow it closely…and laugh and laugh as whoever it may be discovers how utterly impossible it is! ;)

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Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort's courtyard is like a botanical garden! :)

That night I joined Jessi for dinner at ‘Al Maisan’ which means ‘amazing star’ in Arabic. The World Cup was on but neither Jessi nor I care much for football. Jessi is super charming but I didn’t have her to myself for long. We were quickly joined by Firas who is the Director of Sales and Marketing and Haya who’s a presenter at MBC. Her crew joined in as well. MBC was at Al Jabal Al Akhdar to film a part of a larger travel documentary. Lucky Haya to be the presenter of that. MBC is by the way a major production company in the Arabic world. It is from Saudi Arabia and I have spent hours of my life watching MBC2 which is their movie channel. And on that note I’d like to mention that Anantara’s lofty retreat has received an array of interviews and awards for this particular resort. And I have no doubt why! The staff at the resort has got to be the heart of the entire operation. Yes, yes…the architecture is grand, the location is spectacular, the luxury is top notch; but the staff is really something else! And it’s an international staff too. I met those from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kenya, Canada, Egypt, Tunisia, India, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Maldives and naturally Oman as well. And whoever I spoke to was kind, attentive and happy. Maybe it’s the fresh mountain air? Maybe it’s something else…

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Al Jabal Al Akhdar (the green mountains).

The next morning I met my mountain Guru Thilina who was as fit as a GI Joe action figure but carried a kind smile. Jessi had booked me on the ‘Three Village Walk’ and Thilina guided me and a handful other guests down the mountainside and into the history of the region. Oman is packed with history just like its neighboring countries. The mountains around the resort used to be completely green in the past but have begun to dry up. We visited three villages which have been forced to relocate as their livelihood diminished over the past decades. These are villages which have sustained the sands of time and have seen people come and go over the past 700-800 years. But now it has become too hard to farm the mountainsides. The crops are however maintained by expats and the villages are protected by the tourism ministry. Pure bliss walking around among the terrace farms with Damask roses, pomegranates, walnuts, pears, grape, garlic and onions. When we reached the last village, two of the resorts luxury 4WD's had arrived to pick us up and bring us back to the resort. And I was thinking I had to walk all the way back. Silly me…

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While at the resort it dawned on me that I was on a tight schedule. Maersk Line has invited me to join the good ship ‘Maersk Lima’ from Salalah in Oman to Doha in Qatar. It departs from Salalah today (Friday 20th). My stay at Anantara was from the 15th to the 17th. The bus from Muscat would be an overnight ride from the 17th to the 18th and I needed to get my 24 hours inside Yemen before embarking the ship. Otherwise I would risk that the visa expired. Besides, I needed to drive my rented 4WD down the mountain (2-3 hrs), hand it over at the airport, locate a bus to Salalah, plan out what to do once inside Yemen (security), hopefully make a local contact prior to crossing the border, find out how to get from Salalah to the border (145km / 90mi), I had a few interviews in Oman, I needed to promote Anantara across social media, I needed a new e-visa for reentering Oman after Yemen, Maersk Line was asking for additional documents for my embarkation, Saudi’s helpful head of visa section also required more documentation and my head was spinning off the top… I’m happy to report that I managed everything I could and then treated myself to a 5k (3mi) run on the treadmill at the five star gym. Pretty cool treadmill by the way. There was a screen which asked me where I wanted to run? I decided I wanted to do my 5k in New Zealand’s capital Wellington! Someone has filmed the entire route as if I ran through the area and the screen corresponded with the speed I ran at on the treadmill. High tech! Wellington…I’m so ready for you! ;)

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My two hours of "me time" :)

After my workout I was so ready for the spa area! I started out with the aroma sauna, then the “Experience Shower”, the Turkish bath, the “Experience Shower” (again), the Jacuzzi, the health station with nuts, fruits and ginger tea…and then I was pretty much done. I did however finish my evening at the Al Qalaa restaurant. Al Qalaa is the signature restaurant at the resort and it was uhm good! It features traditional Omani dishes. I went all in and had: babaganoush (prestarter), shorbat adas (appetizer), a cold and hot mezza selection (starter), samkeh harra which is a local fish (main) and then I finished off with a nice digestive cup of tea. Priceless!!

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Uuuuhhhhmmmmm good!

The next morning I managed to film some video for you guys and I hope to have it edited within the upcoming days. And then it was time to say goodbye. I had absolutely no desire to leave the resort but what can a man do… I had a proper sendoff with a lot of love from everyone. And then I couldn’t find my valet ticket? I had no idea what type of car I had arrived in apart from that it was a 4WD Mitsubishi. I didn’t even know the color :) Somehow they still managed to find me the right car and off I went. I’m absolutely grateful for my friends at Anantara, who celebrate this massive milestone within Once Upon A Saga! And I dearly hope that I will one day return with my fiancée or possibly wife when that day arises. Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort…we will meet again! :)

resortfarewell

Thank you to everyone! And especially to Firas, Ali and Jessi! :)

Down the mountain I went. Absolutely stunning!! The Sultanate of Oman has got it going on! I reached the airport, parked the car, handed over the keys and thought to myself: “what the heck am I doing at an airport?” Then I located a bus to Salalah and climbed onboard as the very first passenger. It didn’t take long before the bus filled up with Indians. Everyone else was Indian. The guy in front of me was especially annoying. There wasn’t a lot of legroom and he REALLY wanted to lean his seat back. Where I come from you go slowly and if you want to put the seat all the way down then you politely notify the passenger behind you. For this guy there clearly wasn’t anyone or anything behind him. My knees were already touching the seat in front of me and he gave the seat a go. But my legs were blocking his seat from going further back. So he began to hammer his entire body towards the seat at full force while hammering my knees! The guy next to him was just as confused as he could easily lean his seat backwards. So he joined in on the body-slamming-towards-the-seat. That finally stopped when I got laud!! Really? Some people? How did they even get this far in life? Needless to say that was a long ride to Salalah.

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I've had better busrides...

The bus arrived the next morning and I went straight to a café in search for a solid meal. Then I organized my bags so that I had everything I would need in the small one and could leave the large one behind in Oman. I was asking around to see if I could find anyone from Yemen I could liaison with but I had no luck with that. The daily bus to Yemen had already left so I opted for a rental car. Clearly I was already way out of the daily budget of USD 20. But to pull all of this off I decided to put the budget aside and save money later on. I found myself a worn-out Toyota Yaris which smelled of dead cat. Then I set off towards Yemen.

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Who knew that the Arabic Peninsula could be so green?

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That ride was as spectacular as it was enduring! The Monsoon season is over the region and Salalah was already really moist! But it soon turned mountainous and foggy. Once in a while the fog would briefly lift and reveal some of the most stunning landscape I have seen for a very long time! It could have been Switzerland, Austria, Haiti, Ethiopia, Scotland…it was lush and green. The mountain road was in good condition but the fog was dense and sometimes I could hardly see the front of my Yaris. To top that off the road was heavily populated by both cows and camels. So look out!! Then you also had the odd landslide which I needed to steer around and I also saw a number of wrecked vehicles and a truck which was on its side. That stretch to the border took me three hours and I was sleepy as it was. Having to focus hard for three hours didn’t help. I went through a few checkpoints but it was all fairly easy. Then I reached the border. I had decided to park the car in Oman and walk across. I had brought my hammock and mosquito net along with me in the hope that I could camp near the border and feel somewhat safe.

green2

Seriously breathtaking landscapes!

I have a good friend who is well informed regarding areas of conflict and I have received reliable and very detailed information several times in the past. Lately as I traveled into Syria, across Sinai and through Iraq. I always come prepared and I do my outmost to bring the risks to an absolute minimal. Overall I make calculations and end up with calculated risks. Then I go ahead. You have no idea how much research, networking and preparation goes on behind the curtains of the Saga. And I won’t bore you about the details.

brokenroad

This road in Oman was taken out by the weather....serious weather!

Yemen is an abnormally interesting country which is highly suited for tourism! It breaks my heart what the people need to go through these days. Yemen was not a problem for the Saga when I set out from home back in 2013. But it is certainly no tourist destination now. Back in January 2017 I was in Somalia and had met Didi from Brazil (quite a character!). Didi and I had reached Berbera and were staring across the Gulf of Aden talking about searching for a boat to take us across to Yemen. The distance across is a mere 260km (162mi) so it was definitely doable. The next day we received horrifying news regarding airstrikes in Aden and decide that it wasn’t the right time. Fast forward to today. Yemen is a large country and it is more than 1000km (621mi) across. The fighting mostly takes place in the west leaving the east more or less free of armed conflict. However the risk of being abducted is rated very high! Just 8km (5mi) across the border you’ll find Al Hawf which is part of Al Mahrah. It’s a quiet fisherman’s village and I was told that I might be alright there if I kept my head down. However I probably shouldn’t risk going there. About 120km (75mi) inland you come across a larger town called Al Ghaydah. I was told that I should under no circumstances head west of Al Ghaydah! Logistically Yemen is in the wrong direction compared to where I’m heading so it was always going to be an “in and out” visit. But with the latest intel it wasn’t looking to promising. And I really hate that!! Because Yemen is a country with an abundance of history, culture, music, food, geographical features, intercontinental trade, unique architecture, ancient ruins and anything which a traveler could possibly desire. And it’s mostly off limits now. There are always far more losers than winners and it’s absolutely unjust!

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Now just 52 to go...

So there I was at the border. There was some confusion as towards why I was there. As mentioned I had planned to park the car and walk across. The border police were kind and helpful…but I couldn’t park at the border area. I had noticed a petrol station a little while back so I suggested that I could park there. That was fine with the border police but they couldn’t accept that I had to walk all the way back. So they followed me to the petrol station, waited for me to park and then drove me back to the border. Only in Oman? :) Then I stamped out of Oman and made my way across to Yemen. There was even more confusion with those guards. Even more so when they saw my visa in my passport. I speak a little Arabic and it didn’t take long before we were all pretty friendly with each other. I was invited to sit down with “the general” as we worked out what was going to happen. Sometimes it’s good to say what I do and sometimes it isn’t. I decided to tell them about the premises of the Saga and the three cardinal rules: I cannot fly under any circumstances, I must spend a minimum of 24 hours in each country and I cannot return home until I reach the last country. I told them I would just go to Al Hawf and then return the next day. This was accepted and they began to organize a taxi for me. Then a 4WD showed up from Oman with two men in it. Meanwhile “the general’” had begun to ask questions about my Iran visa and I just played dumb repeating: “no no, I’m from Denmark”. One of the men from the 4WD wanted to assist me but the older one held him back. Apparently he thought I was from Iran. But after it was clarified that I was from Denmark I suddenly found two friends in the men from the 4WD. The younger one was Tarek and the older one was Abdullah. They were on their way to do a small business transaction in Yemen and told me that I could join them to Al Hawf. I had already spotted that there was no way I could sleep at the border so I accepted their invitation…and off we went. Tarek and Abdullah were great guys. However they assured me that I wouldn’t find a hotel in Al Hawf but also stressed that as long as I was with them I was safe and had nothing to worry about. We soon reached the picturesque fisherman’s village and Abdullah asked if I had already had lunch? I hadn’t so he offered me some plastic wrapped cake. Then almost immediately thereafter he said there was a place where I could get fish and rice. He suggested I had it “to go” which meant in a plastic bag. So in a matter of hours I had gone from sleeping at a five star resort and dining at exquisite restaurants to “sleeping’ on a bus and eating out of bag. Welcome to my life.

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Tuna and rice to go please! ;)

On the road just outside of Al Hawf a number of vehicles had stopped and some sort of transaction was going on. We stopped to take a closer look and it turned out to be a roadside sale of khat. Khat or qat is a plant native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Khat contains cathinone which is a stimulant that is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite, and euphoria. Among communities from the areas where the plant is native, khat chewing has a history as a social custom dating back thousands of years and it is very common wherever you look in Yemen, Somalia, Djibouti and parts of Ethiopia. It’s not a big deal and I tried it in Somalia but felt like a cow after chewing the leaves for about an hour. It’s not my thing and I don’t like the taste. Back then I was chewing it with Ben whom I had also met in Somalia. It was New Year’s Eve and Ben said that it sharpened his mind and relaxed his body. I don’t know…it’s not for me…

khat

Khat lined up to perfection. Looks inviting - tastes like grass!

After looking around in Al Hawf for a while Abdullah and Tarek decided to head on towards Al Ghaydah and suggested I would come with them. I had a good feeling about them and Abdullah said it would be perfectly safe. Actually Abdullah worked for the government and seemed to know what he was talking about. Besides I still hadn’t formed a plan for where to sleep. So off we went. On and off Abdullah would joke about how they would abduct me and claim a ransom. Abdullah looked at me and said that I didn’t need to worry. They just needed a picture with a riffle pointing towards my head and then they would split the money 50/50. I told them that I would only accept if I got 25%. We all laughed. A bit of morbid humor is needed once in a while. Looking out the window I spotted some kids playing volleyball on the beach. I saw families sitting on blankets having picnics. I saw three boys on the beach trying to erect a football goal. Somehow life continues although it was clear that the living standard was far lower in Yemen than in Oman. However the nature was just as impressive! Steep green mountains rose up on my right while the roaring waves crashed onto the beach on my left. About 50km (31mi) across the border the mountains gave away and moved inland. The landscape began to turn to desert.

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The road to, and into, Al Ghaydah.

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Al Ghayday didn’t look very charming to me. There was a lot of construction which had come to a pause and some construction which was still ongoing. Many houses looked like they have been built to the stage just before you make the exterior look nice. Some houses look perfect. I didn’t see a single shipping container anywhere which I found strange. There’s always a container somewhere? But not a single container in sight and I looked hard. Not even an old bent out of shape container somewhere on the roadside. I figure that if there ever was any then they have been cut into pieces and are now functioning as gates and doors. Necessity is the mother of invention. Once Tarek and Abdullah had finished their business we left to head back to Al Hawf. Abdullah had suggested that I could sleep at his friend’s house in AL Ghaydah but I was keen on finding something closer to the border. I really like both Tarek and Abdullah. Tarek was super sweet and Abdullah was cheeky but knowledgeable. We had some interesting conversations in that 4WD. On the way back to Al Hawf we spotted some painted flags of “South Yemen” which had been decorated with swastika markings. We passed a few camels, some children with AK47’s and then mostly desert and shoreline until the mountains once again appeared. Along the way we ran into one of Abdullah’s friends and picked him up. He and his friend needed a ride to Al Hawf. The more the merrier. As we approached Al Hawf Abdullah was busy with his phone. Then we pulled up to a building and I was told to wait in the 4WD with Tarek. A moment later Abdullah came to tell me that the building was a new hotel which is officially going to open on Saturday (tomorrow). He had spoken to the owner and they had agreed to set up a room for me. The sun had already set and it was dark. Tarek, Abdullah and I parted and I entered the almost ready hotel.

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The newly opening Hotel: Al Quds in Al Hawf.On the coast about 1km west of the town mosque. Ask for Adnan:+977 71010988 

I suppose you’ve got a lot to think about now. At least that is my intention with this blog. But I really want you to think about a new upscale hotel opening up in Yemen during the state of current affairs in the country. No matter how horrible it looks on TV and no matter what you hear from others I want you to remember that the countries we talk of are full of people. And people always continue to be people. Even during the worst conflict people fall in love and get married. And even in Yemen new hotels open up.

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The hotel manager is an English speaking man from Yemen. His name is Adnan and you can reach him on +977 71010988. The owner is from Oman and they are both really good guys. Adnan advised me not to walk anywhere at night and not to walk too far during the day. I got a large room, water, ceiling fans, electricity and a view to the ocean. I crossed the road to see if I could find any dinner in a small supermarket. The selection was rather sparse and apart from some canned food, candy, chips and soda drinks I didn’t have much of a choice for dinner. But I sensed that the guy behind the counter was super exited to have me in his store so I bought a small bag of chips and a small juice to go with it. Then I headed back to my room and went to bed. I needed that sleep!

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The next day I woke up and made arrangements to head back to the border around 2pm ensuring 24 hours in Yemen. I don’t like to tick countries off just for the sake of doing so. I want you to learn anything at all from my visits. I want to say that I experienced something. However Yemen is more or less a tick in the box. I just needed my 24 hours to uphold the cardinal rule. It was the same in South Sudan (32 hrs) and in the Vatican (24 hrs 17 min). I wanted some food and there was a place nearby. I joined the few people already eating and ordered some goat and rice. There was naturally some curiosity about me but it settled after a while. I had to eat with my hands but that’s far from the first time. And it was really good to fill my stomach up.

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I love how they stuff the chicken with hot rocks! On the right you have the "to go" orders :)

Around two pm I was ready to go and decided to tell Adnan who I am. He seemed like a really cool and responsible guy and he had referenced several times that I was the hotels first guest. Adnan was in absolute awe in regards to what I do. He promptly gave me a discount on my stay and bargained my taxi to the border. Then he decided to join me to the border. In the taxi we discovered that we are both born in 1978. We are also both from December. It turns out that we are born only eight days apart! But I was born in Denmark and he was born in Yemen. How different out lives are.

Adnan

Adnan in the middle! I will miss him. I was born first. Then eight days later the world got Adnan :)

I crossed back into Oman 25 hours after entering Yemen and I’ve got to say that the border is one of the nicer ones I have crossed in a long time. Everyone remembered me, wanted to shake my hand and say hello. Then I paid for a new visa at the Omani side and entered Oman fairly happy that the e-visa wasn’t a requirement! Imagine not being able to return. I actually tried to get another e-visa but the system couldn’t issue it while I was still in Oman. Details, details… Back in the car I got online, replied to the most important emails, updated social media with the Yemen visit and got back on the road towards Salalah. It was another hard drive which demanded a lot of concentration but I made it in one piece!  

hilton

Thank you Nicki!!! You da man!! :)

Now I’m sitting in my room at the Hotel Hilton behind a desk happy that I’m done with the blog. Hotel Hilton? YES!! Because Nicki, who’s following on Facebook, wanted to offer me a night at his expense. I’m not going to say no to that! So here I am, it’s 04:07am and I still have about an hour left of getting pictures online. But I’m doing that at the Hilton! So just to recap: left Dubai on a bus, headed up to a five star luxury resort in Oman’s mountains, reached Salalah on an overnight bus, walked across the border to Yemen, ate out of a bag, slept in an un-opened hotel, made it back to Salalah in Oman, checked into the Hilton…and tomorrow I will board a containership heading to Qatar. Who the heck has a life like this?!? ;)

(finished the blog at 06:17am)   

         

Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - beating the impossible!!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

 

Thor emblem

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