Travel log of Machiavelli's Big Trip 2018
It was Saturday March 31st at 03:00 AM when I entered Schiphol to see 25 sleepy yet excited faces (including my own) gathered by the Burger King. At this unholy hour it still seemed unreal that we would arrive in Dubai only 12 hours later. Because of the two-hour time difference, we landed in Dubai at 14:30 and were greeted with a lovely temperature of 32°C. Although my personal motto is ‘the hotter the better’, I saw the sweat already breaking out with some of my fellow Machiavellians. Fortunately, Dubai is half desert, half air-conditioning, so the sweet relief of cold air awaited us in every building we entered.
Although we had only just arrived, Dubai had to wait a little longer, since we would leave for the city of Muscat that same evening. Luckily, we grabbed a bite to eat first at a great restaurant called Lido, where they only played very bad covers of well-known western artists. Lucky for us, the food they served was better than the music they played.
After this much needed meal we headed for the bus that would bring us to Muscat. At around 01:00 we neared the border of Oman: a desert wasteland with a small road boarded with fences covered in barbed wire. I had already dozed off a little and this was the sight I woke up to; it wasn’t what I had expected of this historic middle-eastern country just yet. The several border-control checks we had to pass that night didn’t help with the experience. Fortunately, when we arrived at 06:00 we discovered that the hotel in Muscat made up for the entire buss-ride. I kid you not: we had double bedrooms, with our own bathrooms including a bathtub, there was a swimming pool and a roof terrace with a shisha lounge. I don’t think Machiavelli ever had such a luxurious stay on its trips ever. At 10:00 it was finally time to properly close our eyes for a couple of hours after our 32-hour journey.
I have never been as disoriented as I was when the alarm went off at 13:00 that same day. However, there was no time to snooze because we had to visit the Mutrah Souq, an old traditional market selling Omani artefacts, antiques and general touristy junk. After the Souq we had dinner at the beach and closed the day off with some shisha at the rooftop of our hotel.
Unsurprisingly, the next day the hotel also appeared to have a great breakfast. Soon after, our guide Mohammed would pick us up in a precarious little bus and take us to a small fortress a few kilometers inland. The towers provided a very nice view of the Omani landscape. Next, we went to a small oasis village called Misfat al Abriyyin. It was like a little jungle in the middle of the desert. Our guide told us it had an endless supply of water and when we asked him why he gave us the only obvious answer we could have seen coming: it was because of Allah of course. Following, Mohammed took us to a real (this couldn’t be stressed enough) Omani restaurant. Here we learned four lessons: that real Omani food is made with women’s hands, you only drink with your right hand (you apparently use your left hand for sanitary purposes), Omani food is the BEST and Omani people love their frankincense. After a hilarious group picture in front of the restaurant with the owner, we visited another Souq and went back to the hotel.
On day four we went to the embassy, where junior diplomat Tim spoke with us according to the Chatham House rule, which was interesting. Afterwards, we visited the national museum and with a couple of others we went for a swim at the beach. This would lead up to the best restaurant we have visited: Kargeen. It is hard to express the atmosphere of this place in words, so I would recommend looking up some pictures and you’ll get an idea (and imagine a lot of frankincense).
Day five is the day: I can finally weir my headscarf in the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque! It was without a doubt the most beautiful thing I have seen in Oman, with its grand and meters high shiny white stones. We even bumped into our guide Mohammed. Afterwards we had our last real Omani meal before we returned to Dubai with the night bus.
It was still early when we arrived in Dubai and we headed for the (at first wrong) hostel. Later, our actual hostel would prove to stand in stark contrast to our previous hotel, but the fact that we had beds and air-conditioning was more than enough for me. We took the metro (which had the most unoriginal yet practical names for its stops, such as “Financial Center” or “Business District”) to the consulate, which had a great view on the 31st floor and we were received by a woman who was a former Machiavelli member. Afterwards we had some down-time (a.k.a. beach time!) and then we met up by the Dubai Mall, famous for its shark tank and next to the Burj Khalifa.
The next day we had some free time which meant most of us didn’t know how to get to the beach the quickest. Later that day, we were picked up by three four-wheel drives that took us on a desert tour. We crossed around for a bit in the desert, were dropped in the desert to roll around in the sand (literally), went to a super-touristic enclave and finished with the most unexpectedly touristy, yet amazing dinner in the desert with 400 other tourists, a girl that did some amazing moves with her double D’s, a guy in a dress with lights on it and a man who could breathe fire. The Corona’s also made it a bit more fun.
This brings us to the last day, where I learned that hangovers and heat do not get along. Whilst the rest had the strength to visit the Gold Souq, I stayed in bed a little longer. Nevertheless, because of all the experiences we have had during these eight days and because of the great people of our group, I can without a doubt say it was a golden trip.