Thursday 29th October 2003 - Dubai Visa Run

The concept of a Visa Run may be unfamiliar to many of you working legally in your home countries. Well for those of us in less fortunate circumstances, the visa run is a part of bi-monthly life, or rather however long a tourist visa lasts for. In the case of Oman, you can get a visit visa on entry for one month, extendable for a second month. After that period, you have to leave the country or face a daily fine. So its quite simple. Leave the country and come back again. For us here in Muscat, the nearest and cheapest place to do that is Dubai.

With Dubai being a bigger place, the visa-run industry is a little more developed. For instance, you can take a flight on an ageing russian turbo-prop which flies to Muscat, refuels then flies straight back. They don't even let anyone off. I saw said ageing russian turbo-prop struggling to make it back into the sky while sailing one Monday afternoon. With black smoke billowing from the engines and with an altitude barely a tenth of a 737 the same distance from the runway, I said a brief prayer for its passengers.

Of course the Dubai authorities are wise to this now, and for the cost of a return airfare, you can renew your visit visa. For us in Oman though, we still have the pleasure of a compulsory excursion.

Dubai makes Muscat look like a village. For a city with a population only double that of Muscat, it is surprisingly developed. 8-lane highways flanked by 30-story skyscrapers, mega-hotel-resorts and taxi companies operating exclusively with Bentleys are just a few of the things which make you feel you're in LA. Oh, and the good old gulf sunshine.

I stayed with a family which I was put in contact with through church. I spent my time looking around and had a go at kite-surfing down on Jumeira Beach with some people I met 5 minutes previously (cheers John!). Found out about top-secret US Navy operations in the gulf from a nice Sailor-esse in port for the day. Would tell you the details, but I'd have to kill you.

Went to their super early church service on Friday morning, having been roped in to play keyboard in the service. Then flew back to Muscat, refused to take an airport taxi for 8 Rials (12) and got one from the main road 100m away for 300 baiza (45p) to get to church on time to play there too. 2 services, 2 countries, 1 day. Eat yer heart out Cliff Richard.