A Revisit to the Omani Capital

As there was practically nothing to see in Salalah than the beautiful mosque, we continued our journey up towards Muscat. The drive up was about 12 hours with not much more to see than desert and camels, so we needed to break up the journey, which we did by doing a couple of walks from the road to nearby sand dunes.

When we arrived Muscat, we went to a party to some travelers that I had gotten in touch with through Every Passport Stamp- a Facebook page for people trying to visit every country.

Early next morning we headed out to explore the city. The main sight is a huge mosque, called Sultan Qabus and the Mutrah Corniche. The Beach in Azaiba was also something we had a look at, but it was not very impressing. Next up Ill fly to Pakistan, which should be interesting!

Sultan Qabus Grand Mosque

The “Easy” Way to Yemen

It was Thursday morning and I was having breakfast at the Hilton Salalah with three people I had not met before, but who I shared my favorite hobby with: collecting passport stamps. Taylor had been to 175 countries aiming to become the youngest and fastest woman to visit every country, Tay and Matt had already been to every country except Syria and the country we aimed to visit that day: Yemen. I had waited for a journalist visa to go there for nearly two months and was ready to try other ways to get there.

We had arranged a day trip with with a guy who has managed to get tourists across the border before, but as there had been a cyclone disrupting the roads the week before, we were told that he was stuck in Yemen and that he would send his brother (lets call him Muhammed[1]) instead. We found Muhammed in his yellow Omani taxi outside the hotel at 8am sharp, and confirmed the price of 170 Omani Rial, or 110US dollar per person before setting off towards the country in the East.

Four hours later we were at the border, a bit nervous about what would happen next. We had no visas, but just an envelope that I had hidden under my shirt, prepared to pay the border guard to let us in. Me and Matt stepped out of the car and followed Muhammed to the office where a man was sitting ready, seemingly knowing what was going to happen. I could hear the familiar numbers of m’ia (hundred) and arba (four) when the guy was talking to Muhammed and then he told us that he wanted 100$ for each. As I slipped the envelope along the table, the man asked “you want big stamp, or small”? Well, we are passport stamp collectors I thought and asked “both”? Instead of looking at the main pages of the passport as he stamped them, he held them up one at a time asking the same question “my name is”? Either was my pronunciation bad or his hearing, so the name of Tay became “time” on his visa, Taylor became “taio” and my name became “John”. Matt was just Matt. The whole process was much more civilized than I had imagined. The guy was happy and put his thumb up as we left.

On the other side of the border the roads were much more deteriorated, there was more garbage and lots of signs, utility posts and even a big phone mast that had fallen over from the recent cyclones. People seemed friendly, and the place was calm, not like other parts of the country that is in war.

A couple also offered us some khat, which about 90% of the male population are estimated using, and is said to be sucking the country dry by consuming about 30% of the country’s water. A bag, which is typically used in a day costs about 5 dollars per bag and it is said that most families spend more money on khat than food. An expensive habit in a country where about 45% live below the poverty line. [2]

We visited the city called El Hawf where the architecture was different and people were more dark skinned than in their neighbor cities in Oman. We saw African women walking next to the roads, whereas most workers in Salalah seemed to have an Indian, Bangladesh or Pakistani origin. The city was laying between cliffs and mostly rock pepple beaches, which dominanted the landscape all the way to the viewpoint between El Hawf and Al Ghaydah where we had to turn around to get back to Salalah in time.

The places that we visited felt completely safe [3] and it is a pity that we spent most of the day driving and could not see more with the time we had, but it was definitely a fun daytrip well worth the money and now I look even more forward to getting a journalist visa to see more of what this country has to offer!

[1] I do not want to expose our driver to the open web, so it is better if you send me a message to get more details

[2] Yemen sucking itself dry: http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1917685,00.html

[3] This is just my experience and not meant as a travel advice. Do your research for your own safety before going.

The road to every country

Im only 15 countries away from reaching my goal, and in the next two months I will be making my way through some of the hardest countries in the World.

What I mean by hard countries is that the visas are hard to obtain, the security situation remains fragile and poor infrastructure makes it hard to move around. 

… but I also think it can be the most interesting.

My plan is to fly into Dubai on Monday (Oct 15th) and then see from there where the wind takes me. Ive got visas to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Eritrea. For Yemen I will just go to the border and try my luck with the guards there. This will all be done before Christmas this year..

My Strategy and Goal

Beautiful landscape

My plan after Christmas is to finish off the remaining three countries in Asia: NepalBhutan and Bangladesh. And except for Andorra and Monaco, there will then only be some easy African countries missing: Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles, Cape Verde and Sao Tomé.

But wait.. thats 197 countries, what about project 201?

193 UN members, but 201 countries

It seems, I am the only one calculating with 201 countries in the World.

There are only 193 UN member states in the World, and in the eyes of everyone else I will have visited every country when I have been to those. Additionally I have visited Kosovo, the Vatican, Hong Kong and Palestine which are members of UN agencies, but not fully UN members. Also, in the same category is Macau, Taiwan, Niue and Cook Islands, which I will save for last before I can finally say that I am done. 


So what´s next?

I will not stop traveling. Not a chance in the World for that. What I want to do is to go back to my favorite destinations and show these to other people.

Travel experiences are like earphones, tents, blankets and chocolate, it´s best when shared.

Said some weird guy

During the next few months I will put together trips where you can join me rediscover my favorite destinations such as Venezuela, Ethiopia and Madagascar and so, which you will find on this page, but first of all I will invite you to a road trip going from Norway to Ghana, which will me a once in a lifetime type of trip- you can already read about it and sign up on: 

www.vikingsinafrica.com

Accessibility is important — don’t forget image alt attribute

Just adding some more nice pictures which hopefully will make you inspired to sign up which can be done through this contact form.

Join me on my adventures

Travel experiences are eternal

👋

Traveling as a Tourist in Libya in 2018

People told me that I was insane to go to Libya at this time, four years into the country’s brutal civil war, at a time where they dont issue tourist visas because of the situation. I had even been denied entry to Tunisia because of my intention of visiting Libya and it was just lucky that I had brought my second passport which I used to get in.

As the Libyan Wings plane got ready for take off the pilot let out three Allahu Akhbars and that was it. There was no going back. The plane took off from Tunis Carthage and I was feeling a mix of uncertainty and exitement.

I was arriving at Mitiga military airport (as the main airport had been destroyed by the war) with a business visa that had cost me over 1000$ in total*, and I was afraid that the immigration was able to spot that I was there for tourism. Luckily they didnt ask a question and just about an hour later I was walking through the streets of Tripoli city center which felt much more safe than I first had anticipated.

Plenty of bullet holes, even on the mosque

I think it was a great time to go. The Black market rate for the dollar was at 6,2 dinars while the official rate was about 1,3dinars. Also the fightings West in Tripoli had stopped just 4 months ago and was now very quite in peaceful. The best part was that there was not a single other tourist in the country, with my guide I had the whole Roman Ruin sites of Sabratha and Leptis Magna to myself.

A bombed bridge on our way to Sabratha.

The ruins of Leptis Magna and Sabratha was some of the most beautiful I have seen in my whole time traveling. Sabratha had been used as a hiding ground for ISIS and could just as well have been destroyed just like the ruins in Syria. The ruins already had a lot of damage from the fightings, like the mortar holes on the walls of the Amphitheater:

I went to Libya with a company called Sherwes travel who organized my visa on the ground and provided an excellent itinerary with a knowledgable guide. I would have reccommended them at the warmest had it only not been for the response I got from their booking agent Ibrahim when asking him if I could stay longer. His answer was downright aggressive saying that if I refused to leave the country after the 4 day tour was finished he would report me to the secret police as being a spy and have me arrested. I left the country after that threat but am sure that I will be back again soon, but then to go to Benghazi and the mountains in the East, which currently works as their own country with their own parlament and visa requirements. Will be interesting.

There were lots of grafitti in Tripoli, including caricarures of Gaddafi

* The official visa fee at the embassy was 300£, but then I also had to pay a 50£ express fee, 350$ handling fee to the a Libyan agent and then another couple of hundred dollars for flights and hotel to arrange my visa in London