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Postcard from Sur 


This was my fourth visit to Sur in Oman, but my first with a chance to look around. I attended a conference organised by the gas plant just outside Sur. Instead of my usual meeting at the terminal and immediate long drive back to Muscat, I spent three nights there: my longest business-trip for ages! I saw the town centre on two of the free evenings, and used my free time on the last day to have a proper look around. My guide and companion for the morning was, predictably, an Omani taxi driver. Sur is small so a couple of hours was more than enough to get a flavour. Apart from the places mentioned here, I visited a dhow-building workshop. I shall save the images from that visit for another post.

No town in Oman is complete without an imposing fort, and the one in Sur is indeed imposing and also very beautiful. I'm always impressed by how the Omanis preserve their heritage and culture. We, and by we I don't just mean Kuwaitis but the whole Arab world, can learn so much from how they maintain their country. Take this fort for example. It has been lovingly looked-after, the security guard was a local, and there was no entry fee. The only request the doorman had, after opening the gate and letting us look around, was for me to sign the guestbook. I looked at the previous entries, from many nationalities, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a fellow Kuwaiti in the book not more than a day before my visit.

The view from the fort was really pretty. Sur's houses look cosy, the mosques cared for, and the streets are clean and well constructed. During my visit, they were replacing the footpaths on the main routes. The new highway between Muscat and Sur (on the coast) is almost complete. New towns on the sea that were only accessible through the mountains, such as Tiwi, are now a short drive away from Sur. My taxi driver mentioned how a town so close to Sur felt so far away before the opening of this new route.

It was late morning and the harsh sunlight was not very flattering. However this time allowed me to see real life locally. Earlier in the morning I saw the immaculately dressed children gather in groups waiting for the school bus. Later these are taxi drivers were resting at this cafe. I love how the generous tree has become the ceiling for the seating area. I joined the men briefly and of course I was warmly welcomed. If I didn't have a flight home out of Muscat that day, I could have easily spent the rest of the day chatting to them - or actually listening to them chat. The tea was brewed on a coal fire so it really hit the spot. They did not let me pay for it. Thank you Bu Abdurahman.

They have made some adjustments to the town's infrastructure in recent years. Rainwater is a major issue all over Oman, as the rocky mountains send all the rainwater gushing down gathering speed and momentum. Everything on ground level has to cope with its wrath. Drainage and bridges across wadis have made it much more bearable and they no longer have flash floods in Sur. I'm told the suspension bridge and the lighthouse are also new additions. The lighthouse was completed in the late nineties, and the bridge a few weeks ago. Again the mountains around the town mean this bridge saves a lot of driving between two sides of the town.

This is a carefully-renovated old dhow which was brought back from Yemen. It has some significance with Sur and was brought back and restored to a more proud appearance. The adjacent building is a small function hall. I have no connection to this city whatsoever... yet this gesture just fills me with joy.

The last two images are of two random neighbourhoods. I wanted to leave you with an impression of what the locals call home. The repeated theme of the football fields intrigued me. I now understand there are three football teams based in Sur, and if I'm not mistaken all three are in the main league in Oman. If they merged themselves into one team, they could potentially be the strongest team in the country. Naturally it's a source of pride and many kids would want to immitate and copy.

I assure you I didn't deliberatly paint too rosy a picture of this place. From my short time there, I couldn't find an obvious negative thing to say. The wonderful Omanis, make it easy for us to forget there is anything beyond good.

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Reader Comments (5)

I would have to agree with you! Omanis are the nicest people you will ever come into contact with. Some of them are very laid back and enjoy life as it comes along! Like you said the taxis are very nice and they really want to explain things to you if you ask! They are extremely hospitable and like you said not everything is amazing there, but they are just amazing people! I love their roads, everytime I ago I think about the time I can take my bike down there and ride!

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarzouq

I've heard so many good things about Omanis and the beauty of their country would like to visit it sometime. Btw do you know if there are any places like this in Kuwait. I've only been to Qasr Al Ahmar in Jahra and it was a nice opportunity to see Kuwait's old architecture.

November 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMathai

Your website is remarkably interesting and keeps the observer wanting to see more and more. Your writing is eloquent yet simple enough for the children to read and understand too. We particularly like the way your visits to different cities are captured through a combination of yours and local attitudes. You should be SO proud of this achievement..!
Safa and Mika'il got very ecxited about the 75th level of photography..!! particularly capturing the shape of the bay was exciting to see..

November 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFarra

When I first came to this blog, I just saw photos, and I was afraid there wasn't going to be any written content. I'm glad I found this section. :-) I love Oman and your photos do it proud.

November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIntlxpatr

Marzouq: I don't ride bikes and I understand... I can't imagine what goes through your head (and veins) when you look around there :)

Mathai: You can't really compare the two... Kuwait is more of a city (with a sprawl) than a countr of towns and citiesy, so you have to look for those special pockets here and there.

Farra: Thank you :)

Intlxpatr: I haven't finished yet :)

December 9, 2010 | Registered CommenterBuYousef

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