16 June 2024

We were expecting a long wait at the Oman/Saudi border but not a bit of it. We were in and out as quick as a fiddler’s elbow.

The border was called Ramlet Khaleh in Oman and something else on the Saudi side. I was expecting a sleepy border post with a few police and army but not a bit of it. It was a huge complex smack bang in the middle of nowhere. There was 1 narrow road leading both in and out. It looked like an international border you might expect in China or Russia or some other dictatorship and where 100,000 people or so were processed daily. We were the only ones there.

Just a note about borders outside Europe. I have travelled through dozens of borders in Africa, Central and Southeast Asia as well as Russia and China. All have a similar layout. There’s an exit post, a no-mans land and then an entry post. Sometimes there are lots of armed robothug type guards, sometimes a few lightly armed police and sometimes none. There’s nearly always a heightened sense of fear or paranoia and the knowledge that the frontier officials have to power to make your life very uncomfortable indeed or force you to change your plans. So, you’re on your best behaviour.

I love crossing borders and the more hassle and uncertainty the better. I enjoy the liminal experience of leaving one world and entering another. Especially the transition. So, instead of moaning about the long pointless waits, 8 try to embrace them. Most of the time anyway. Air-conditioning helps!

Our border pust was opened just under a year ago and still looks brand new. The first sight I had of it was the entry gate and a seemingly endless fence on the Omani side. We drove for about 5 or 600 meters along a barb wired topped fence to the Omani exit post. What a magnificent building in such an out of the way place. It was almost identical to the one on the UAE Oman Border post. Obviously a desire to project wealth and power and centrally determined.

The hall itself had a lovely stained glass roof, just like the UAE/Oman one. There was room to process hundreds of people but we were the only ones there. We went in turn to the counter and had our passports checked and stamped with an exit permit. Without it, we wouldn’t be allowed to enter Saudi. The bus went though its own process but as the drivers are Pakistani and extremely unfriendly and uncommunicative, I don’t know what was going on there. I know that they received a fine because they hadn’t submitted gone paperwork within 7 days.

Then back on the bus like schoolchildren on a days outing.

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