About a month ago, we left Oman in the middle of the night with our two cats, Miso and Sushi.
We didn’t tell our employer. If you think that is bad, we do too. We originally were told that we could give a month’s notice, only to find out later that our employer wouldn’t pay us for that last month. That defies logic, but that’s the Middle East.
You can always go on vacation, but if you want to leave for good, your visa has to be properly canceled by employers. If immigration officers think that you’re sneaking out without getting your visa canceled, they can detain you. We only told our plans to a few people.
After Edd’s parents kindly accepted the task of watching our little furheads while we are in America, we had to get the cats ready for travel to the EU to avoid several months of quarantine. This entailed:
- Sending blood samples to Brussels and waiting three months for results (Qurm Vets)
- Preparing translated export and import documents (Qurm Vets)
- Buying airline tickets for cats
- Getting final health certificate (Muscat airport vets)
Flying into England would’ve required that the animals go by cargo with a price tag of 1200 OMR (3100 USD) per cat. We chose what most sane people do: to fly into Amsterdam and take the ferry from Hoek von Holland to Harwich.
Both Turkish Airlines and KLM fly from Muscat to Amsterdam and allow cats in the cabin. We booked with Turkish as the fares and price for cats was cheaper.
The night we left, our friend Joe moved the rest of his belongings into our house. At 11:30 PM Our friend and favorite taxi driver, Khamis, picked us up and drove us to the airport. I had made him a CD with some love songs in English (his favorite). It was a sad goodbye.
We arrived at the check-in desk with four suitcases and two very scared cats, under the guise of going away for the weekend (for a ‘birthday’ we’d tell customs if they asked).
The cats’ fare (a cost per kilo) had to be paid in cash. Edd went to take the money out of the ATM. I stood chatting with the check-in desk guy as he casually flipped through our passports. He was really nice.
“You’re teachers!” He said.
“We were, yes” I said.
“Hmm. Are you coming back to Oman?”
“Maybe one day we will. We really enjoyed it here”.
Only when I saw the guy next to him lean over and murmur something about “immigration”, which he said in English, did I realize what I had done. The guy had been talking to me so casually, I forgot that he was also probably responsible for catching visa irregularities. Seeing that my visa wasn’t cancelled, he surely put two and two together. But he didn’t say anything.
I felt like an idiot and I kept talking to the cats, hopefully they would all just think I was nuts. We were relieved when we made it through customs.
We are glad we flew with Turkish though. Smiley employees, good (relatively healthy) food, and in-flight mags selling really cool Turkish domestic appliances.
Even though the cats have flown many times before, they don’t take to it kindly. That’s an understatement. When we got to Amsterdam, they were so happy to be out of their carriers and in the room at the hotel (an IBIS Budget-in case you didn’t know that existed), they even lay down next to each other.
We took an Uber to the port in the morning. Lots of other people had pets too! The only other cat owners had given tranquilizers to their cats.
We were very impressed with the pet services on the Stena Line ferry. For only £15 (18 USD), each animal gets a soundproof kennel with spare blankets, dishes and water you can use. They even have a monitor in there so you can watch your fur children on a certain channel, and you can visit them whenever you want.
Miso and Sushi were not happy though. Each time the huge dog below them howled, the little dog across from him barked, which made our cats growl. The tranquilized cats didn’t even notice.
The ferry ride was amazing. While drinking a beer, we used their free wi-fi to send an email to our boss, telling her we wouldn’t be coming back. That was our weird end to a wonderful two and a half years in Oman.
Edd’s brother Bill and his girlfriend Lucy picked us up when we arrived in Harwich with our England-legal cats. Now England’s furry immigrants, one Saudi and one Omani, are warming up to Edd’s parents in Bridport. We miss our fur buddies a lot, but are happy they are in a cat-loving home. Edd’s family is now on ‘integration duty’, helping them get along with the family cats, Sonic and Zoot.
To anyone debating whether or not to take their furry adopted family members from the Middle East, please take them with you. It’s possible and not as expensive as you think (even to Europe). It just takes a lot of love!