Oman // Al Batinah and Al Dhahirah //

South to Ibri via Yanqul

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The recently opened highway between Sohar and Yanqul offers perhaps the easiest way of getting between the coast and the mountains. It’s 110km from Sohar to Yanqul, a drive of around 75 minutes along a fast and scenic highway, with hardly any traffic. The road to Yanqul runs off the Globe roundabout in Sohar (although it’s not signed to Yanqul, only to Wadi Habib). Note that there are no petrol stations between Sohar and Yanqul, while there are also a couple of wadis about 30km out of Sohar which are prone to flooding. The road is fairly tedious for the first 40km or so (excepting a sign to the jovial-sounding village of Beer Jam about 25km out of Sohar) but becomes increasingly dramatic as the mountains approach and the road begins to hairpin upwards, eventually breasting the crest of the ridge slightly over halfway to Yanqul, before descending into the village of Al Waqbah.

YANQUL itself is a remote and rather sleepy little place lying in the shadow of the huge triangular Jebel al Hawra and surrounded by eye-catching mountain formations – slender rock pinnacles, craggy ridgetops, table mountains – which make for enjoyable viewing during the drive from Sohar to Ibri. It’s worth stopping here to have a look at the town’s attractive mudbrick fort, the Bait al Marah (not open to the public), built at the beginning of seventeenth century by the Nabhani dynasty. The old village behind is also interesting, with dozens of crumbling mudbrick houses in an advanced state of decay, plus more modern concrete homes with colourful (though faded) metal doors. Most of the houses are now abandoned, although the falaj still flows in places. To reach the fort, turn right at the T-junction at the beginning of Yanqul (if approaching from Sohar) and turn right along the road to Dank. The fort is about 1km along this road, on the right.