The UAE is a great place from which to collect stamps - in your passport.
The UAE makes a great starting point for a stamp-collector
The longer you live in the UAE, the fewer the blank pages likely to be found in your passport. That sweeping statement carries, if I am honest, no trace of statistical authority. But with so many intriguing destinations within easy reach, it does seem probable that anyone with a thirst for adventure will make the most of the opportunities. If you hold a passport of one of the EU countries, and visit another, a simple look at the relevant page is usually enough for an official to wave you through. For the expatriate based in the Emirates, each journey in the region stands a good chance of being to somewhere requiring a visa to enter and some other stamp on departure.
By the time you read this, I should be just about back from a short holiday in China. The visa occupies a whole page of my passport; two other full pages bear witness to trips from the UAE to India and a fourth provides proof of my residential status in the UAE between 2007 and 2009. In between are all the little stamps that remind me of the discoveries I was able to make around the Middle East. There were three trips to Oman and one each to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. Since I also managed to visit all seven emirates, it is just as well that stamps or visas were not required for passing from one to another. Space for journeys still to come would otherwise be running short even though I have had my current passport for only three years.
All those official stamps represent a lot of time spent standing in queues, at consulates or airports. Obtaining visas for India involved by far the most time-consuming procedures. Syria was simple, if only because I was arriving by road from Beirut and was therefore just one more western traveller. I had been warned that applying for a visa, as a journalist, before departure from Abu Dhabi would have been an optimistic initiative doomed to failure.
But for all our complaints about the bureaucracy involved, I certainly savour my own memories of getting around the region and slightly beyond, not least because so much of it was to places that might have remained unvisited by me; I regret having been unable to add Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen - among others - to my itinerary. Back in Europe, opportunities for private voyages have so far been more limited, though in the course of duty for this newspaper I have become reacquainted with parts of France and the UK that I had all but forgotten.
It seems to me that travel brings greater satisfaction than most human activities. Samuel Johnson may have had a point when he said that when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. His next few words - "for there is in London all that life can afford"- are more open to challenge, as I hope to report after my trip to China. @Email:email@example.com