Emirate of Sharjah

Saudi Arabia

Dubai Down Town

Dubai Creek


Al Sufouh

Verena Schulthess

Emirate of Sharjah

Our small ferry from Bandar Abbas “lands” in the port of the small emirate of Sharjah. As the ship set off several hours late and took 12 instead of 10 hours for the crossing due to the persistent thunderstorms, we only arrive in Sharjah in the late morning of November 10, 2011. A police car drives ahead of us to immigration. The passports of all travelers are collected here and those who were unlucky and whose passport was at the bottom simply had to wait longer.

We were lucky and the spit-roasting in the port of Sharjah could begin. First I go through a back exit over to the customs building to change money, but then I have a hard time getting back in. However, we need cash for the following process. First we go back to the harbor, where we have to pay the bill of unloading at the shipping agency and then get the ship’s papers. This is followed by the stamping of the Carnet de Passage, payment of the road traffic fee, etc…. At the end we return to the harbor, where all papers and payments are checked in a barrack and we receive the exit ticket with which we can leave the harbor. Shortly before sunset, we reach the small parking lot at Al-Khan Beach, where we spend the night for the next two days.

The next two days are dedicated to “self-organization”. First we drive – once again through the truck ban – to the Mega Mall, where we buy groceries and get a SIM card from ETISALAT, which works perfectly. In the afternoon, it’s off to the truck wash to do the MAN a favor once again and rinse off the sea salt. The vehicle is also thoroughly washed and the chassis is even sprayed with oil at the end.

Today we drive to “United Motors & heavy Equipment”, a company that also represents MAN in the Emirates. Here we change the wheels on the axle, i.e. the running direction of the tires, and have the oil levels on the front axle topped up. I am usually present during the work to prevent any mishaps. I want to make sure that the work is carried out, for example that the cardan shaft is really lubricated, etc.

Dubai Down Town

Today we are going to Dubai Down Town. Trucks are only allowed to enter after 9 am. First we head for the Sudanese Consulate General because we want to extend our Sudanese visa so that we can still have time for Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, we are told that only visas for people resident in the Emirates are issued here. OK – then we’ll just drop by the Sudanese embassy in Abu Dhabi.

The highway through Dubai has 10 to 12 lanes, 5 to 6 lanes in each direction. Traffic flows smoothly and is actually very orderly, although there are occasional outliers like in Iran. So we can’t drive so relaxed after all. An additional question is always the question of the right lane so that you don’t accidentally end up in the wrong direction or drive into a neighborhood you don’t want to go to. We have had the best experience with the second lane from the right and with this: Keep your eyes open.

We recorded the impressive ride between the skyscrapers. Have fun!

Dubai Mall

In the evening, we take a cab to the Dubai Mall and the Dubai Fountain. A total of 1200 stores, stalls, snack bars and restaurants try to do business in the Dubai Mall. For the uninitiated like us, it’s not easy to find your way around, and especially to find your way out again. The Dubai Mall also has a huge aquarium, which is naturally a magnet for tourists and is intended to encourage shoppers.

Dubai Fountain

Behind the Dubai Mall there is a pedestrian zone around the gigantic Dubai Spring fountain with its water features. Of course we want to see the spectacle, which is why we stay until around 9 pm. Admittedly, there is a grandiose atmosphere that infects us. This gigantism has a lot to inspire, especially as a change from Iran.

Burj Khalifa

The elegant needle of the Burj Khalifa is 828m high. Initially called Burj Dubai, its name had to be changed to Birj Khalifa when it was completed. Why? The Emir of Dubai ran out of money and the President of the United Arab Emirates – Khalifa bin Zayid – had to step in. It is only logical that the tower now bears his name.

Dubai Creek

You can still feel something of the old Dubai around Dubai Creek. First we stroll through the faithfully restored Al Fahidi Neighborhood and then to the Creek in Bur Dubai. We only have to cross the souq briefly, but the pushiness of the vendors causes us to “flee”. The wooden “abras” have always traveled on the Dubai Creek on certain shorter routes. The water cabs are somewhat larger and are used for longer distances.

We take the water bus along Dubai Creek to the harbor of the dhows, the time-honored wooden ships that still transport cargo in the Gulf of Persia and the Indian Ocean. The ships we take a closer look at are all loaded with all kinds of cargo for Iran. Tolerated smuggling on the basis of old vested rights. Fortunately, because the people in Iran have to be able to live somehow, despite the sanctions.

Al Sufouh

We search the coast of Dubai, but the places that are shown in iOverlander for overnight stays are now overbuilt or are not suitable for an overnight stay for other reasons. We come across Al Sufouh Beach 1 – and are happy. We manage to get a nice and relatively quiet seat in the front row. It is still hot, around 30°, but a steady breeze makes the climate more than bearable. Here we are for 11 days. We enjoy the beach and being here. It is particularly beautiful in the evening, when the skyscrapers nearby are illuminated. An unreal atmosphere. We also see the Burj Al Arab, the only 7* hotel in the world.

Tinted windows

Many locals drive large full-size 4x4s and pick-ups. Here in Dubai, the driver’s and passenger’s windows are also heavily darkened so that you can’t see into the car. This is very unpleasant in road traffic as you can’t make eye contact. It is even more unpleasant on Al Sufouh Beach. The lovely locals drive in front of us in their vehicles, gawking at us and our vehicle for the longest time without us being able to see them. After a while, they drive away. Unfortunately, it is not possible to contact us in this way. In general, we find the local population here to be rather distant and unapproachable. A Swedish woman who has worked here for several years and joins us for coffee says casually that we (the Westerners) are only 2nd class to the locals here – so the Indians and other working foreigners are only second class. 3. and 4th grade.

In between, we need water and have to go shopping. There are a few supermarkets nearby where we can cover our needs. For the fresh water you need a tap with sufficient pressure. We find a mosque in a slightly better residential area and ask the Indian staff. They allow us to draw water from the drinking water network and are very happy to chat with “strangers” – after all, they live far from home and it is usually too expensive to bring the families to the Emirates.

Dubai Marina

We are naturally interested in what it looks like behind the skyscrapers that we see every evening. So we set off to visit the Dubai Marina. There are footpaths on both sides of the marina, making it a pleasant place for a stroll. Restaurants with the largest selection offer their menus. We choose an Indian restaurant and have a wonderful meal. Finally, a ride on the water cab.

Abu Dhabi

We have to go to Abu Dhabi to collect our new Carnet de Passage at the Swiss embassy. The deputy consul also takes time for a chat and tells us which supermarket has the products we need to restock.

Abu Dhabi didn’t really appeal to us. Unfortunately, we have some unpleasant and arrogant encounters with locals. The Indians “serving” here are again very friendly and help us to find a parking space for our truck camper. Instead of being allowed to park in the large bus parking lot directly behind the embassy – the parking lot is 4/5 empty – a cab takes us to a parking lot that is explicitly marked as a parking lot. And yet another white-robed man drives up to us to tell us that we are not allowed to park here. None of his business, we think, and set off in a cab to the Swiss embassy anyway.

The drive through the embassy district with its many security guards, including past the US embassy, is no problem with our MAN and we are finally able to park directly in front of the Sudanese embassy. After a certain waiting time, we are received personally by the consul. He doesn’t want to give us a new visa either, as we still have a valid visa in our passport – and because he wants us to visit his country extensively. He begins to rave about Sudan and lists all the places we should definitely visit, infecting us with his enthusiasm. Finally, he serves us drinks and gives us his WhatsApp number so that we can contact him at any time. We have to enter the country by December 10, 2019 and can then stay in the country for 6 months. The die is cast for us. Africa is our actual destination. We decide to postpone an extensive visit to Saudi Arabia until later and turn our attention to the shipment to Sudan.

Last shopping trip to a supermarket with a western range, a lot of money goes over the counter, as the price level is the same as in Europe. We then drive to Mira, where we spend the night on the beach. We spend the last night before the Saudi border at the public beach pick-nick site in Al-Silah, which is only 30 km from the border.

Saudi Arabia

What a magical word! The electronic tourist visa, which can be applied for online, is available for about two or three weeks. Within about 40 minutes we are in possession of the visa and can print it out. Yes, we have a small printer on board. Nevertheless, we drive to the border with a queasy feeling.

Leaving the Emirates is easy. We consistently take – with the truck – the lane for cars and buses. Are stopped at the first gate. A border patrol arrives specially and gives the OK to continue. They drive us up, accompany us to immigration, take our Carnet de Passage and take it to the place that stamps it, come back and everything is done. After 3/4 hours we drive over to Saudi customs.

Our fear was the medication we were carrying. We don’t have anything that would be a crime in Europe, but we know that the regulations in Islamic countries are much more restrictive and it was not possible for me to find out exactly which drugs are banned and which are not. As a precaution, we asked our brilliant family doctor at home for confirmation of the medication, which he delivered immediately.

But our worries are in vain. The check-in is very friendly, welcoming and correct. First, our data is recorded at immigration. We have to give the fingerprints of all 10 fingers – digitally, as it should be today – and then we are photographed. It all happens very quickly. Our vehicle is then digitally recorded. The first vehicle inspection was characterized more by interest in the vehicle. Now we drive to the scanner and the MAN is scanned. The second check then follows and we can enter the country – haaaalt, who stamps our Carnet? You don’t want to stamp the carnet, doesn’t seem necessary here. We speak to the manager and get a stamp – but we really didn’t need it, because we didn’t get a stamp when we left the country…..

After the customs check, we change money and fill up the tank for the first time. Then we drive another 280 km to our first rest stop. 280 km with nothing – just desert. The road is in good condition, hardly any traffic, everything is wonderful. We’re getting in the mood….

First night

We choose a Sasco Palm service station along the highway-like main road for our overnight stay. We find a niche in which we feel good. The sun has just set as a fiery red ball. More and more trucks are pulling into the rest area to spend the night, and two articulated lorries are parked next to us. The air is filled with the roar of diesel engines. We like to stand together with truck drivers and love this atmosphere, even if it’s not such a quiet night. The next morning before sunrise, we once again check the air pressure in the tires and have to top them up.

Second day

Today we drive a total of 450 km. The drive through the suburbs of Riyadh and along the outskirts of Riyadh is time-consuming. But it’s finally done. As the planned rest area is closed due to construction work, we drive into Al Quwayiyah and to the parking lot at the new shopping mall. A muezzin greets us and wants to help us find a place to stand. But wait, no, we don’t need a hotel. He drives us back to the parking lot of the shopping mall and talks to security, he accompanies us to the supermarket and then he has to hurry because evening prayers are about to be said.

Apart from his masked wife sitting in the vehicle, we didn’t see a single woman today. At 9 pm we discuss our vehicle. I’m getting out. The head of security introduces himself to me and confirms that we can stay here until the morning. Good night.

Third day

We set off at dawn. Verena doesn’t know what I’m up to yet. I want to break the 600 km daily limit – and we manage to do it, but with all our strength. We struggle with the overnight stay. My plan: In the parking lot of Al Taif airport. In my mind’s eye, I imagine a well-tended, tree-lined parking lot. But it doesn’t even get that far. The entrance is controlled by the military. I drive up anyway – well, it took a while to get out again, because the dear soldiers and officers – yes, they were and remained very friendly – wanted to know what this military-like vehicle was supposed to do. They take a quick look inside the vehicle, but the airport manager has to come and give us our freedom again. We head for the nearest petrol station and spend the night there. Loud night.

Fourth day

We definitely want to fill up with water before Jeddah. We drive around the local filling stations but can’t find a tap. We drive to the new park on the opposite side of the main road. But the toilet facilities are still under construction. So we ask two local men in the park. Short small talk. They want to know exactly what we need, which is why we show them the water connection on our vehicle. OK – no problem – drive behind me, you can fill up at my place. This gives us a direct water connection to the villa of a retired Saudi army officer. During the refueling process, he treats us to dates, cookies and tea. Wonderful, this hospitality. Unfortunately, communication is minimal, more with hands and feet, as he only speaks a few words of English.

To get to Jeddah, we have to drive a long way around Mecca in a westerly direction. So after a failed attempt to find a more direct route – the police send us back – we take the truck route. We spend the night again in a small parking lot on the edge of a large petrol station at the entrance to Jeddah.

Fifth day

Today we drive into Jeddah to book the shipment across the Red Sea. We don’t have an address, just a name. So we drive to the port’s passenger terminal. Someone here can give us an address. Finally we find the company“Namma International Shipping“, not far from the harbor. Namma is a Saudi Arabian company, but with headquarters in Cairo. It is therefore not surprising that the booking is made by an Egyptian, while the friendly older gentleman in white who translates is an employee from Sudan. Ships leave Jeddah for Suakin in Sudan and vice versa every day except Friday. The booking is made quickly and we spend the rest of the day at Middle Corniche Park in a parking bay, where we also spend the night.

Sixth day

At 11 a.m. we are at the harbor, ready for “clearance” But there is no “clearance” in that sense. Our vehicle is not checked, only the papers are collected. While the parking lot in front of the port fills up and empties again – only the empty vehicles are still there – they want us to wait until the driver who is supposed to drive our truck onto the ship arrives. That drags on. We stand around from around 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., not really knowing what’s going on or “if it’s going on”. But the SUDANESIAN workers keep reassuring us. After all, we also want to go over to the passenger terminal. But the Sudanese spread out a blanket and invite us to eat. We “lie down on the blanket” in the evening and eat with them. Another Sudanese joins us and eats a few bites. Then he disappears again with the remark that he would bring us a chicken meal for the ship after evening prayers. So we have to wait again … and lo and behold, he turns up with three plastic bags that smell wonderfully of chicken. We take our meals back to the ship, where we realize that there is no restaurant where we could have eaten as we had planned. Now the chicken with chips and sauce are all the more delicious and fill us up.

At around 7 p.m. we are taken to the ship by bus. But our MAN is not in front of our ship, nor in a completely different corner of the harbor. I go down and talk to the loading officer, who reassures me. At some point, our MAN also arrives (you are not allowed to drive onto the ship yourself here) and is standing undamaged in the hold. Thank God.

As a rain front is moving across the Red Sea, the crossing takes several hours longer than expected. But we already know that. In any case, we arrive safely in Suakin, Sudan.

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