Ferry Flight 3: Sharm El Sheikh to Muscat

A long day today, with a 6.6 hour flight to Muscat into somewhat of a headwind all the way.

This meant we needed to keep an eye on (and spend some time tuning) our fuel consumption to ensure we kept adequate reserves to reach Muscat (Plan B, had that not worked out, would have been to refuel en route – but it did all work out well in the end).

On the way to Muscat, we crossed Saudi Arabia and saw the magnificent desolation of that country.

At one point we passed over a large agricultural development, featuring a large number of circular irrigation areas (using rotary irrigation systems) in the Australian style. Pete believes this is no accident, and that some advice in agricultural development in that area did indeed come from Australia. Its easy to believe, and these circular watered green areas in the midst of the desert presented a strangely familiar sight, far away from home.

We passed over a large city in the desert and a lot of smaller townships along the way.

Once we passed into Bahrain, we had the amusing experience of talking with an Australian air traffic controller, who was curious about what we were up to (so we explained it!). He then proceeded to chat to his colleagues and organise a somewhat shorter incoming route for us from Bahrain onward to Oman. Because we had been pushing into headwinds all day, it definitely helped.

We landed in Muscat into 35 degree, very humid afternoon. We learned that in the height of summer, it regularly exceeds 47 C here… so we got it easy today!

It took ages to get sorted out on the ground today – refuelling took a long time, and the customs handling process was also a slow (but smooth) process. Eventually we were on our way to the hotel.

One amusing aspect of turning up as air crew, in your own plane, but in casual clothes, is that some of the customs and handling staff take some convincing that you’re a real pilot.

(It seems that real pilots wear white shirts with epaulets ๐Ÿ™‚ )

However, we had all the right aviation IDs and valid passports, so it did all work out as it was supposed to, in the end.

Muscat is a visually stunning environment. Historically appropriate, white, quite beautiful architecture is in evidence everywhere. The modern Muscat has re-invented itself since the 1970’s but it is strongly connected to its deep and varied history. There is a lot of construction going on.

We had a quick dinner at the hotel and then took a taxi to ‘Old Muscat’, where Pete and I walked through theย Sukh (the market precinct). This was older, featuring winding alleyways full of shops and stalls packed literally floor to ceiling with ‘stuff’. It was very atmospheric.

There were very few western tourists in the Sukh – the market was mostly populated with locals. It was really nice to see and experience, albeit briefly, this authentic window into the place and its people.

Travelling here, one is struck by the clean and new aspect of so much of the place. The freeways are amazing (pristine, smooth, and efficient). So are most of the buildings. The taxi drivers were consistently friendly, and relaxed, and conveyed the sense that this is a country that is comfortable in its (harsh, desert) environment.

Here are some photos (below) from the trip today and from Muscat.

Tomorrow its another long day… we are flying to Agra, in India (very near the Taj Mahal) – and then having a rest day there to visit the Taj ๐Ÿ™‚

3 thoughts on “Ferry Flight 3: Sharm El Sheikh to Muscat

  1. Hi Simon, that’s very funny about your lack of a pilot’s “uniform”. Maybe in addition to, or instead of, the white shirt with epaulettes you need one of those flat topped caps with “PILOT” emblazoned across it! Great that a dinkum Aussie was able to help you across the Middle East.
    And in case you haven’t heard the Wallabies didn’t quite lift the Bledisloe Cup in Auckland last night. 22-0 to All Blacks ๐Ÿ™‚ Yep, as a dinkum Kiwi, I’m smiling! I But guess their Kiwi coach Robbie Deans will be feeling the heat today! Almost as hot as Muscat.

  2. Was wondering if you were going to do the Dick Smith thing (from his round the world helicopter flight) of buying a white shirt with epaulettes and wearing a military-style pilot’s hat with ‘scrambled egg’ on the brim, as a lot of these countries are more impressed by the uniform than anything else. But apparently not, you’ll get through the bureaucracy the old-fashioned way! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Simon tells me the weather is not so good on the next leg of the trip, and they might get diverted to another airport beside Agra. I am nervous about this part of the trip for the following reason:

    Few weeks ago, during ‘paper filing time’ the Indians (who perfected the Art of Bureaucracy) were asking all sorts of questions on the paperwork. Some of those were getting quite personal, so in frustration and anticipation of the next silly question, Pete and Simon volunteered and wrote down the names of their dogs. A week later, they got a call from India – telling them that everything is fine with the paperwork, but with an added stern warning – NO PETS ALLOWED in the country. It took a lot of back-paddling from the boys to explain to the Indians that ‘no, there are no animals travelling with them, and it was a joke, apologise profusely…sorry, sorry, we won’t do that again, we promise…’

    I am fully expecting a delegation at Customs in India to be searching the plane for smuggled dogs…. The chocolate might prove handy yet…

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