The Road from Muscat to Sur

Last week, my friend Sue and I went down to Ral Al Jinz to see the nesting turtles.  She was visiting from Kuwait during Spring break, and had never been there.

Leaving poor David all alone with the cat and dog, we set off Tuesday morning.  The GPS in the Jeep insisted that we had to go through Ibra to get to Sur….. about double the distance going on the new coast road.  When I finally asked her to take us to Tiwi, she figured it out. Once you are out of Ruwi you can’t really get lost, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the turn, and besides, it’s kind of nice to see how far you have left, and on the mountain roads, to watch the elevation change.

Not far past Qurayyat is Hawiyat Najm Park, home to a 400 year-old sink hole.  It is quite close to the shore, and about 40 meters wide and 20 meters deep. Geologists say that this interesting site was created when limestone collapsed but the locals say that a piece of the moon fell to the earth and made this hole.

There are a lot of trees (this is a Mother’s Tongue in bloom) planted now in the park, washrooms, picnic shelters….. everything to make it a place to come and enjoy.  A 3 foot wall surrounds the sink hole…… in February when we were there, Snoopy leaped right over it.  You see that “tiny” wall at the top, the narrow ledge of dirt at the top, and how deep the hole is?Wow – it was good there was a ledge or we would have just had to let go of the leash and hope he could swim. I wonder what flashed through his mind when he saw that huge hole in front of him!

The water is an incredible green: possibly due to the mixing of ocean and fresh water, but it is the colour of oxidized copper.  There is copper in Oman, so this could well be the reason.

Lots of people come to swim in the pool…. in February we saw  young man jump in from the top…… this time, they were just jumping from a ledge 1-2 meters above the water level.  It looked like fun.

The steps are very steep and tall, and we decided that with all the walking we would be doing on the beach, not to go down….. but it was a hard decision.  Next time…..

These are the mountains close by.We stopped at Wadi Shab… you have to drive all the way through the village to get to it.  The boats were waiting to give people a ride up into the wadi, but we didn’t have time… another “next time”, I guess.

A bit farther down the road is Qalhat. Five years ago, when there was only the old highway, David and I had stopped at some ancient ruins… Bibi Maryam’s tomb. I was determined to find it again, but it took a while.  When we finally found the road to the site, there was a “site closed” sign, but we went ahead.  They are rebuilding the stone walls around the site, (this is what they used to look like)but we stayed on the road and took photos from a distance. This is said to be one of the most photographed sites in Oman.This photo is from the trhip in 2007 – it’s not there now.

Here is an excerpt from”This Week”…. a free weekly paper, which gives you an idea of just how old this town is, and how important.

“Islamic, Persian, Indian and Ming empires, all connected by an umbilical cord of seaways to Qalhat, made it one of the most fantastic cities of its time. Ibn Batuta, that great Moroccan explorer, had walked its streets, marvelling at the city in the 14th century. “Were the world a ring,” he wrote, “this would be a jewel in it.” Qalhat grew fabulously rich on trade, with Arabian horses being its highest-value export. Marco Polo wondered at their sheer numbers in the late 13th century, when they were shipped to the sultans of Delhi, the Rajputs in Rajasthan and the kings of south India.
The tomb is, quite fantastically, the only standing structure in the city, and juts out of tons of rubble and the weight of centuries. Bibi Mariyam, a former Turkish slave who later became governor of the city, built it for her husband. It was made with corral, rock and plaster and finished with glazed tiles, the chipped remnants of which can still be found on the interior arch.

Although the port reached its zenith between the 13th and 16th centuries, its story goes back much further. On a bank that dips gently into the sea, Neolithic flints hint at human habitation 7,000 years ago. These settlements of Ichthyophagi, or fish eaters of the Indian Ocean, probably developed into the early maritime communities that were the crucial link between the Indus Valley and Mesopotamian civilizations. What is fascinating is that Stone Age man chose this spot for the same reasons that made Qalhat prime real estate thousands of years later: access to fresh mountain water, nearby fertile valley, a natural wall of mountain and that legendary deep sheltered harbour.”

If you want to know more about Maryam, check this link out.

You don’t often come across a place with so much history in such an out-of-the-way place.  We also saw the covered cistern, called a birka. The stones that make up the walls and covering are actually coral.

Soon we were back on the road and in Sur…. what a maze that city is to get through!  Not far from there to Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve.

But, that’s another story.

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One Response to The Road from Muscat to Sur

  1. Melissa says:

    I’m traveling the world through you and various tv shows (alaskan shows lately)! Love the pics and your ‘tales’ about the areas. Beautiful!

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