The Emirates

At the border I feel like I am participating in the Olympics.

First of all it’s because the procedure for getting the U.A.E. visa has changed into an obstacle race with many desks. Second of all because the competitors in this race are from all possible races on Earth. There are many men of color, so different. They’re from Africa, Asia, North America. They’re Indians, Koreans, Japanese, Australians, Chinese, Europeans…

We all have the same goal, leaving this airport either on a plane or with a visa… and thus get inside the Emirates.

As usual, actually getting the visa takes longer than they say. Nobody seems to be able to provide me with explanations as to why extra-procedures are necessary: in the end, maybe I really do look like a terrorist 😀 The officer asks “problems with Tehran…!?” then smiles and stamps my passport.

Image: Burj Al Arab (which in Arabic means The Arabs’ Tower),a luxury hotel in Dubai, U.A.E
Source.
Burj Al Arab

The first step outside the airport is the first step outside the air conditioning zone. The high temperature and the wet climate make for difficulties breathing. The hitch-hike is OK and I reach the city on the second vehicle. 2/3 of the automobiles are Toyota. In here, in the summer nobody takes shower between 7 am and 11 pm. That’s because the cold water pipe is too hot.

Dubai and Sharjah are two cities close to one another, with amazing beaches, strange-looking and extremely high buildings.

After a short ride through the city I stop in a palm trees-park. With my backpack as a pillow, I lay down in the protective shade of a palm tree. After the mad race to Istanbul, nothing seems to bother me anymore. Everything is perfect. Outside there are 50 degrees and what I inhale is half water, still I fall asleep under the palm tree and it feels good, like nothing bad can happen.

The mosques are superb with their beautiful colors and the architecture different from Islamic standards. Is the people that impress me less. The Arabs in the Emirates are so different from all Arabs I’ve met till now. They are cold, distant and very suspicious. I have the longest and most interesting conversations with Pakistanis and Indians. In the floor I live in there are forty Indians. They are very passionate and interested in everything is new and different. They receive my presentation on Romania with obvious joy.

In Dubai everybody working in services is from other countries. It’s hard to believe they are building a city almost entirely on sands. The rhythm they build in is crazy, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In few years Dubai will certainly make in the Top 10 cities of the world. Not in my top of favorite cities. It’s artificial, expensive and so superficial.

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Visas

Getting the visas was the most difficult part of the preparations, because each embassy has bureaucracy and it also has its own requests. Immediately when I get the visa for India I leave Romania.

At the border, the last call I receive is from the Iran embassy. If they would have called me 10 minutes later probably I wouldn’t had answered at an unknown number due to roaming reasons. The officer tells me that there is a small problem about my visa, they need more information and I have to pass by the embassy.

“- Now I am basically in Bulgaria. If there is a small problem let’s solve it by phone.
– It’s fine, you may pass by the embassy of Iran in Sofia as well.
– I’m sorry, I am going straight to Turkey and can’t stop in Bulgaria.
– Ok, it is possible to go to the embassy from Istanbul. But if you don’t pass by an embassy you won’t be allowed to enter in Iran.”

Further on, the Iran embassy cancels my visa for good… in 5 minutes! They simply mark a big X on the passport and write something (in parsi I think), without any other comments. Probably – canceled. They only said “this is the request from the embassy of Bucharest” and send me back to Romania for more information… to the same guys who were telling me “small problem- no problem”!?

The shock doesn’t appear as it should… somehow, a part of me was expecting this after the phone call…

I am losing myself on the Istanbul streets and my mind looks for solutions… it is holiday and at a mosque they share sheep meet with rice and “ayran” (a drink based on yogurt). Delicious!! The Turkish cooks the meet seep wonderful! And life goes on

I already have something planned for Turkey. The participants are very opened and friendly, interested of inter-cultural learning. I am performing a workshop about understanding the communication barriers and the cultural limitations. The time we spend adds value, we start friendships and design future projects.

I turn back to Bucharest and, with the pain in my boots, I ring at the gate of the Iran Embassy. Here, my “friends” serve me bullshit: “military operations are on your way, near the Eastern board with Pakistan”. But I have friends who were coming from Pakistan on the same way and they had no problems at all.

And the Iran Embassy rejects my request for a new visa, even for a transit one.

On these circumstances, the route Bulgaria-Turkey-Georgia-Russia-Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India remains the only way, on land, to go for Nepal. This implies a lot of time, an increased risk, lots of visas and small chances of success. From Romania – zero chances!