Monday, December 9, 2013

TWO OMANIS IN: The Boinne Valley, Co. Meath, Ireland

Being Omani and getting a visa to go to Ireland, is a lot easier to get a visa, than to get one, for say, France or the US.

The first step was to fill out the visa application online ( and to submit a signed summary along with: two passport size photographs on a white background, passport valid for 6 months along with photocopies of any visa stamps inside, custody information for children if travelling with such (we were not), bank statement, letter from employer (actually, they never took our letter or bank statement), copy of reservation for accomodation, and a letter stating your intentions for travel along with the visa fee (40 OMR roughly). Here is my letter:

Month: ______ Day:_____th, Year: 2013

SUBJECT: letter in regards to visa application requirement #4

To whom it may concern,


I, {INSERT YOUR LEGAL NAME AS IT IS SPELT ON YOUR PASSPORT HERE} want to visit Ireland for the purpose of tourism. I plan to stay {insert # of} days from the fixed dates of {insert date} to the date of {insert date}. I have no members of my family in Ireland or any other European Union state. I solemnly swear that I will observe the conditions of my visa, will not become a burden on the State, and that I will leave the State on the expiry of my permission to remain.

{Sign your signature here}

The tickets were less than 500 OMR when we'd booked them for the both of us, so Ireland it was, for my husband loves rain, and and the colour green, and I love history and culture. Turns out so far to be his favourite place, and he's daydreaming about going back now and buying property. I would feel the same if it wasn't for the cold. I can't stand rain and weather that can't make up its mind. The cold seeps in my joints, and makes me feel older than I am...

The flight was a long one, from Muscat, to Doha, to Frankfurt, from which we transferred to Aer Lingus, an Irish airline. The coffee was bad, and remember to bring cash, as you will have to pay for your own food in-flight, which is kind of annoying.
Going through customs was a breeze, airport security was professional and not at all into profiling, and in the airport we changed into slightly warmer clothes. My husband and I both wore what we'd normally wear in Oman, meaning me abaya, and him dishdasha, but we'd brought along oversize sweaters to throw on over top, and we brought a couple of wool caps (which I wore over my scarf at times), and lots of socks. If planning a trip to the Irish countryside, pack a lot of socks and a good pair of welligton boots. I only brought riding boots, and suffered accordingly.

From the airport, we picked up out rental, which we paid more for than the booking online, but were upgraded and had no issues with the car or the service of our rental provider at all from that point onwards. The fellow at the companies service counter was super helpful. Back in Oman we'd gone to the Oman Automobile Association and renewed our international lisence but it was my husband's first time driving on the left hand side of the road.

The first round-a-bout caused us our only left/right mix-up, and from there to the toll booth (keep a couple euros on hand for the fares) it was smooth sailing on out of Dublin and down to Newgrange in the Boinne valley.
We stayed in an adorable little bed&breakfast in Newgrange our first night, tucked away in the fabulously beautiful Irish countryside and this sleepy little village. We went for walks in the rain, read books by the fire. and went for walks on country lanes between thatched cottages.
Because Muslims wake up before sunrise to pray the fajr prayer, we were always well and up well before breakfast, and on one of our walks along the banks of the Boinne river where the newgrange UNESCO heritage site is, I could almost understand all the stories about faeries. The place was so stunningly, enchantigly, beautiful.
Over a stone bridge, we watched the sheep and cows grazing. The only other living being we encountered was a very angry sheep dog, safely encased behind a fence, and a pair of rabbits, that we frightened.
I don't think the village gets a lot of tourists from the Arab world, so they found us to be interesting and were very polite. I think henna gets a lot more comments than anything else which I found a nice change from people being mad about my black abaya or my headscarf. The smiles, even when you are driving on the wrong side of the road, remarkable, compared to the usual swearing of other European nations.
My husband really enjoyed speaking, whenever he got a chance, to farmers, the older generation, or to craftspeople. In the Boinne he got a chance to speak to a spinner and weaver really close to our B&B:

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