Through the sea of dunes...

Trip Start Jul 16, 2009
Trip End Aug 14, 2009

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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Saturday, August 15, 2009

We passed through al-Kharj at night, reaching Haradh and the two-lane highway at sunrise.  We stopped for sunrise prayers and to fill the gas tank, then headed off to the east and the rising sun.  We stopped at so many rest areas trying to find an omlette paratha, but everywhere was still closed.  The best we could do was a hole-in-the-wall place, where my husband got some qeema (Indian-style ground beef) that was literally swimming in oil (uhh, I left that for him) and refilled our carafe with tea.  Lots of trucks out on the road, but unfortunately not much in the way of early morning refreshments for the drivers.

We sailed along, kids were asleep again, and my husband was getting sleepy as well but we still had a couple of hours to the border.  After passing all the agricultural bounties (remember the date farms, dairy farms, etc.) we entered the Empty Quarter -- thankfully this time in daylight, and early enough in the day that the sand wasn't blistering hot.  With kids sleeping, I hopped out, ditched my sandles, and ran around a bit in the dunes.  It's interesting how you can be walking along on firm sand then suddenly your feet sink and it becomes tough going.  I was fascinated by the animal footprints... I don't know enough about them to tell what they were, although I assumed birds, but maybe not.  It's like after a heavy snowfall and you step outside and the snow is pristine, no one has walked across it yet.  You fee like such an adventurer -- the first to step across the untrodden snow!  It is a similar feeling here.  It's so quiet, and sand-swept clean, with just the ripples of sand and a line of teeny footprints.

The front loaders were out in force along the road, but still there were areas where the highway quite literally was one lane only.  There wasn't much traffic, so it didn't slow us down much.  We reached the Saudi border at around noon, where there was a huge slow down.  First the trucks.  There are so many trucks that are sitting and waiting at the Saudi border.  I'm not sure of the cause of the delays, but it has been bad enough to cause official complaints as companies' products were becoming ruined as they sat in trucks at the Saudi border waiting to be cleared.  The whole Saudi border issue is thorny; the Emirates has tried to build a water bridge to Qatar to circumvent the Saudi border, but to date has not been able to do so. 

We were able to carely skirt the trucks and get to the immigration window, where we had to wait for nearly half an hour.  Only one attendant was on duty; there were five cars in front of us, and quickly 10+ cars lined up behind us.  Finally, however, we made it through and were back home in the Emirates.
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