As Stig sits in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, Stig must change his plans. It is no longer possible to take the car through Pakistan into India. In addition, further problems arise when the visa for Tibet is declined and we establish that the road through Bhutan and Myanmar is closed. The route to Beijing seems much longer all of a sudden.
The solution is to fly the ABAX car to Beijing and continue the journey in Top Gear style, including a train through India. The Stig would be proud! Stig is heading back to Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. The challenge is to find the ABAX car in the world's largest container port. Fortunately Stig installed ABAX in the car so we find it soon enough.
The United Arab Emirates
Stig visited both Abu Dhabi and Dubai; both of these communes are part of the federal republic, the United Arab Emirates. The country consists of seven Emirates where Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the two largest. The bordering countries are Oman and Saudi Arabia. The landscape is dominated by mountains, open plains and desert landscape. The population is with its 4,975,593 - as big as Norway, but half of these are guest workers from surrounding areas, Iran, Pakistan and India. Oil and gas is the primary driving force in the economy with the exception of Dubai, almost exclusively driven by commerce, finance and tourism.
The Emirates have a ratio of 3 males to every 1 female. This makes competition for the attention of a lady tough!
The connection between the ABAX car and Stig’s body was strong. So strong that separation from it made him sick! Dubai is very boring if you should be in your hotel room all day. That is why he chose to drive to Muscat, the capital of Oman.
Oman is a country on the Arabian Peninsula. It borders the United Arab Emirates to the north and northwest, in Saudi Arabia to the west and Yemen to the southwest. The population here is 3 million spread over an area the size of Italy. It should be mentioned that most of Oman is covered by gravel and desert plains. Consequently, the majority of the population inhabits the major cities that frequent the coastline. The population is predominantly Muslim and the official language is Arabic.
The country is controlled by the absolute monarchy and the country's leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said.
“You will not sleep tonight anything my friend." The receptionist had a point ... Just imagine. I will have 1 night in Muscat in my whole life and it just so happens that it is national day!! Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said’s birthday celebration. And how do they celebrate it? By making as much sound as possible!! They decorate their cars with flags, pictures of the sultan and the number 44 (I will explain this later...) Citizens take to the streets on foot and many end up hanging out of car windows or sat on their roofs. Trust me; you do not want to be on the roof of a V8 when they floor those beasts!
The celebrations bring a cacophony of noise and fill your body with adrenaline. Not averse to lighting the occasional firework in Norway’s own national day celebrations, I get involved! Horns are blown, police sirens cry out and crowds rush towards an intersection. I am getting closer and closer to the firework guy. Good views! No, wait a minute... I am not moving! Everybody else is actually moving in the other direction! Should I be moving back towards...? BOOOOM!!! The sound almost burst my eardrums! Then, silence. Just for a second. Then gentle chortles from the crowd started, becoming laughter and then tears.
I am of course staying in a really cheap hotel that is situated on the intersection where the parade ends. Yeah, got me the celebration :-). Fortunately they gave up at 2 o’clock.
Today the sultan is a very well-liked guy. He came to power after a coup against his father in 1970. His father was anything but popular. He forbade radio, television and newspapers, and used the country's money on himself. His son was educated in England and spent some years in the 1st Battalion of The Scottish Riffles. He immediately started a modernization program of the country - based on the vast oil values.
Remember the number? - 44 years since the kid beat up his father. Former national days celebrated the corresponding with the number 43 - since 43 years ago they gathered sheik judicial common union. One of the first acts Qaboos did was to secede from the United Kingdom in 1971, building up its own military defence. Until then they had an agreement with the British about shared military operations.
Today Oman is a close democracy with a house of parliament. The sultan himself is incidentally in hospital in Munich (where he spent much of his time in the British Army – Germany that is, not in hospital) and is expected to return next week. Then the celebration to surpass everything...
Today I had a guided tour of the opera house. A rich, lavish building that holds the form of the most exquisite mosque... Sultan likes such music, and built the first opera house in any Arabic country, but tediously he would only have musicians from Oman. Many musicians were sent to Europe to gain a true operatic education. The building took 4 years to construct. The lengthy process was largely down to the fine needle work and delicate tapestries that adorn the halls.
Would I recommend Muscat? Absolutely, but then only to experience something different. If you want shopping malls, stay in Europe!
Do you have tips and advice for the Stig? Maybe you know places he should visit, restaurants he should eat at or experiences to try along the way. If so, you can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Click here to follow Stig's route in Google maps