Bahrain - Muscat 5 November
In Bahrain the departure formalities seemed to be going very smoothly, thanks to our efficient handling agent 'Bahrain Airport Services'. We had already packed up the plane when we were told that we would have to wait two hours for Avgas as the refuelers were busy. So we were driven back to the terminal. Flemming took the time to add more pics to the website and Ray phoned the Indian embassy in Oman. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to obtain it in Geneva. It would have been ready late on Monday afternoon when the Consul comes to sign, but we didn't want to delay our departure from Geneva any more. We'll just have to hope that 4 days are sufficient in Muscat. They were non commital on the phone.
We finally took off - behind one of the several US airforce cargo planes we've spotted on the apron - at 1:17 pm with over 2 hours delay. We then got confirmation that the aircrafts with call sign 'REACH' were big grey US airforce cargo warbirds.
We were re-routed some of the way to avoid sensitive areas due to the crisis. Instead of circumflying Qatar over the sea, we were given a more direct routing over Qatar. Approaching the UAE FIR boundary, the Qatar controller told us that we had to climb to FL150. We were aware of that as UAE had issued a NOTAM to that effect for all overflight of UAE airspace since the beginning of the terrorist crisis . As is to be expected, there are no weather problems - just severe blue skies. We landed in Seeb, Muscat at about 5:50 pm local time, 13:50 zulu, about 30 minutes after sunset.
We were advised on initial contact with Seeb approach to expect radar vectors for ILS 26, so we planned our descent accordingly. Unable to identify the ILS26, Ray quickly rechecked the NOTAMs and I (Flemming) told approach that we did not receive the ILS. We were then told only 8 NM out that they had changed runway to 08 and given some short vectors towards the now black mountains ahead to the south and a steep descent to 2000 feet to intercept the ILS 08. The slippery Mooney just made it in time for an orderly approach. I would have preferred to be advised a bit earlier!!
Update by Angela during our flight 10 November Muscat to Ahmedabad (India)
On arrival at Muscat, we were met with friendly smiling faces. Everything was dealt with efficiently. Then it was time to show our passports. None of us had visas since we had been told we could obtain them on arrival. Flemming and Ray were wearing their flight captains' shirts. I wore normal clothes although I also possess a captain's shirt, because we had decided it might make everything look false if all three of tried to pass as crew, particularly as I don't have a pilot's licence. The friendly officials did their best to save us money. The visa cost the equivalent of US$ 53. Crew were allowed in without a visa for a maximum stay of 120 hours. This was exactly the length of our stay, thanks to cutting it short by a day due to our late departure from Geneva. I, on the other hand, would have to pay. I handed over my passport and the dollars. Shortly after my passport had been whisked away to have the visa stamped in it, one of the officials asked if I also possessed a captain's shirt, because, if so, I could quickly don it and pass as crew! But it was too late. The visa had already been issued. What a shame!
We took a taxi to the district of Greater Muscat called Mutrah, which is the part of the city that has the most atmosphere. On our way, we were impressed by the quality of the roads, the lack of litter, elegant monuments and rugged, stark mountains behind them, and a beautiful (and enormous) mosque to our right. The corniche at Mutrah was particularly beautiful - a giant incense burner on a hill to our left and an impressive fort and ships in the bay to our right. We booked into a budget hotel recommended by the Lonely Planet guide - this time I insisted that we check the rooms before committing ourselves. Flemming and I checked them while Ray waited in the taxi. We decided it was OK, although there was no direct dialing from our rooms which might be problematic for using the Internet.
After that it was a very pleasant walk along the corniche to reach a Thai restaurant opposite the giant incense burner. (This is a country of frankincense and myrrh). Although the food and service were faultless, we were surprised to be the only customers. We put this down to the terrorist crisis and paranoia in the West about visiting Moslem countries. Before we left Geneva we had been warned to expect some sort of discrimination as Westerners in the Middle East and Asia. So far, we have only met with friendly, helpful, people.
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Pretty mountains entering Oman
The corniche in Mutrah, Muscat