After the wonderful experience in the desert, we hit the road and the first stop was Wadi Bani Khalid, a well-known canyon 130 south of Muscat. A constant stream of water flows through the canyon and large pools of water and boulders are scattered along the course of the wadi. A beautiful area, especially on a hot day when you can cool off in one of the cool pools.
The next stop was the city Sur at the coast of the Gulf of Oman and is the capital city of the Ash Sharqiyah Region. By the 6th century, Sur was an established centre for trade with East Africa. In the 16th century, it was under Portuguese rule but was liberated by an Omani imam and underwent an economic revival, as a trade centre with India and East Africa. This continued until the mid-19th century, when the British outlawed the slave trade. The city was further ruined by the opening of the Suez Canal, which saw it lose trade with India. Today the city has retained its reputation as a major dhow-building town, the very same vessels that were used for trade two centuries previously. One of the famous cities in the Gulf of Oman in building wooden ships. Many ships built here have been exported to China, India, Zanzibar, Iraq and many many countries. Sur was heavily hit by Cyclone Gonu in June 2007, which is still visible at various points. The latest building in the city is Oman’s first 170m long suspension bridge Khor Al Bath bridge over the harbour creek connecting Al Ayjah and Khor in Sur. It was about to be opened when we were there.
Oman is heavily investing in their infrastructure. They are building a motorway between Sur and Muscat. At the time of writing the entire stretch is not yet finished but a major part, about 150km, between Sur and Quriyat is finished and was opened early 2009. The entire stretch is without a petrol station. It cuts the travelling time by about half on this scenic route along the coast with the mountains on one side and the Gulf of Oman on the other. At some point the road will become a toll road but so far no toll is being collected. It was a very pleasant drive down this new very smooth dual carriageway.
On the way we stopped at Wadi Shab, Wadi Tiwi and the Sinkhole. There is building going on in Wadi Tiwi at the moment. It was difficult to get to the wadis with our little sedan. As the weather was getting awful and is was late in the day both wadis did not really radiate the beauty we had expected and seen in our guide and on images on the internet. The Bimah Sinkhole is located next to the new motorway, about 6km before the village of Dibab. Access to the sinkhole is through the “Hawiyat Najim Park”, which is the old local name of the sinkhole referring to the ancient believe that a meteorite has caused the creation of this deep hole. However geologists believe that the sinkhole was formed as a result of Tertiary beds dissolving and then collapsing inwards. An underground tunnel apparently connects the hole to the sea about 500m away. The hole is about 40m wide and 25m deep. In summertime people swim in the water and picnic in the park. Unfortunately we could not spend much time are as we still had to get to Muscat and it was already getting late.
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