Absurdity at the Oman border

This was my first time crossing the border from the United Arab Emirates into neighbouring Oman. The border control itself is like a small shanty town of sorts. There are three run-down, dilapidated huts made from rusty corrugated iron sheets. You enter the first one and it’s hot, dusty and dark. Sunlight streams through all the cracks and gaps in the makeshift walls and a wobbly ceiling fan makes a faulty-sounding, whirring noise above your head. There’s a single wooden desk in the room that has a dust covered, antiquated PC sitting on it that looks like it belongs in a museum. Behind the desk is an Arab who is engrossed in reading a newspaper. No one else was in the room.

I wait. I look around and decide not to sit on what looks like it might once have been some sort of sofa. I continue to wait. The Arab turns the pages of his newspaper. No one else enters. About 10 minutes later, the Arab folds up his newspaper and beckons me over to the desk. I hand him my passport and he looks it over. He then hands me a form, gestures with his hand and says in barely understandable English: “Next hut. Next hut.”

So I take my passport and my form to the next adjacent corrugated iron hut. The interior is almost identical to the first. Same dust-covered desk and chair. Same antiquated personal computer and same broken, wobbly ceiling fan. The random streaks of sunlight breaking through the walls and ceiling are briefly lost in a flood of bright light as the door opens once again behind me. The same Arab from the first hut walks in and calmly takes position behind the desk. He waits for a few minutes then beckons me over and gestures that I should give him my passport and the form I had only just received.


At this stage I begin to seriously wonder about the authenticity of this bizarre process, but the Arab stamps my form and says in the same no-nonsense, matter-of-fact tone: “Next hut. Next hut.”

I take my stamped form, ponder, then proceed to the third and final run-down, ramshackle corrugated iron hut. And yes, it’s exactly the same. Dark and dusty with the same desk, the same primitive PC, the same disintegrating sofa and the same wobbly ceiling fan. Again, it’s empty. I wait for just a few minutes and the same Arab once again enters and calmly takes up his position behind the dusty wooden work station. He sits, shuffles a few papers, then gestures for me to come over. He takes my stamped form, looks it over, then files it in a dusty paper tray. He stamps my passport and says: “Done.”

Not knowing whether to laugh out loud or even attempt to explain how this administrative process could be made more efficient for future reference…I decide to simply say “thank you” take my passport and leave.