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The Muscat–Sur coastal road

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The principal route into Sharqiya follows the new coastal highway from Ruwi in Muscat south to Quriyat and Sur, with the Arabian Gulf on one side and the rugged summits of the Eastern Hajar on the other. Attractions here feature an interesting blend of the historical and the natural, including the old fort of Quriyat and the ruined city of Qalhat, along with Wadi Shab and Wadi Tiwi, two of Oman’s most scenic wadis, while the off-road drive up across the top of the Eastern Hajar to Ibra via the Bronze Age tombs of Jaylah is another highlight. Past here lies Sur, the historic centre of Oman’s famous ship-building industry, and still one of the prettiest towns in the south, and the turtle beach at Ras al Jinz.

Access to the eastern coast of Sharqiya is via the Sharqiya coastal highway (opened in 2008), which sweeps travellers south from Quriyat to Sur in little more than an hour. Plans to subsidize construction costs by a system of road tolls have been mooted but have not yet been put into effect, although a line of toll booths stands ranged across the highway 18km south of Quriyat ready to spring into action. The highway has provided a boon to development in the area, although it has also taken a toll on the various natural attractions it passes en route, while the increase in high-speed traffic and fly-by tourists has destroyed some of the area’s original, slow-motion charm – an inevitable, if slighty depressing, consequence of Oman’s ineluctable modernization.

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