Half-way through the tortuous drive to Salalah, the three of us all voiced the opinion that this was a silly way for anyone to spend a holiday.
“It’s not as if there is anything scenic to see on the way,” said Pankaj Sharma, Gulf News photographer, who was driving us all the way from Dubai, through the (Hatta) Al Wajajah border post, and now through the desert of Oman.
Hugo Sanchez, the graphics designer, who was in the back seat, said, “Man, this boring. This is really the death road.”
The journo on the trip was me, taking notes which I could not decipher later on, and wondering whether it would have been a good idea to take a flight to Salalah, instead of this self-inflicted ennui.
I hear that sensible people take the two-hour flight from Dubai and then at Salalah hire a car and drive through the Dhofar Mountain range, which is indeed breathtaking.
Once you arrive at the ‘wilayat’ (district) of Salalah, where the Queen of Sheba is said to have come to shop for frankincense, you are spoilt for choice of type of holiday adventure you want: from trekking, deep sea diving, to bird watching or simply enjoying the gorgeous scenery.
But most Emiratis and expatriates driving to Salalah do so on a tight time budget. Since many of them get a few days off during the short Eid holidays, they decide to hit the road to Oman. It is then the roads become jammed with anxious tourists, sleepless and dazed and trying to beat the clock.
Between Dubai and Salalah there is nothing much of interest for most of the holidaymakers and the tourist facilities are not much to talk about.
Many of the coastal towns throughout the drive have deep ‘wadis’ which are treacherous during the rainy season as they tend to flood fast without warning.
The roads on this stretch have warning signs that say, “Don’t drive when water reaches red” and further on you see round concrete pillars painted with red at the top to show the danger point. Apparently the low-lying road gets flooded during the monsoon.
The city of Nizwah, our first stop for the night, was the ancient capital of Oman. For tourists this town’s attraction is the magnificent Nizwah Fort built above an underground stream.
For the rest of the journey, the monotonous landscape has a smattering of oil rigs and tiny landing strips, but watch out for motorists, who make it exciting for you and should normally be restrained and never allowed to drive.