The new steep road to Amerat, whilst full of sharp bends, is thankfully only a few kilometres long, and is a really quick way of reaching the mountain plateau above Muscat.
Then, after reaching Quriyat, the dual carriageway road to Sur is a most scenic route, with mountains on the southside and a wonderful view of long sandy beaches on the other.
In all, the trip is now just 200km of driving, and this shorter journey will begin to create more opportunities for the town. Sur, home to around 47,000 people, is the capital of the South Sharqiyah governorate of Oman, and historically was important for the shipping trade and producing wooden ships.
Even now, the large sea inlet provides a suitable natural location for the building of new dhows.
Oman LNG has a plant in Sur and there is a new industrial estate too. Some modern housing is being built. The centre of the town is very old style: the traditional souq, quite a number of run-down buildings, and plenty of goats in every street. We decided to find somewhere for lunch, and settled on a place called ZFC.
“Why here?” asked David.
“I am interested to see if the chicken is anything like KFC,” I replied. “The people who own this place have cleverly used similar graphics to try to increase business.”
We were just about to enter the front door when a man popped out of nowhere and told us to go around the back to the exclusive area. Perhaps they know I write a column in Muscat Daily, I thought. We ordered grilled chicken, salad, nan and rice with vegetables, plus a lovely thick fresh mango juice.
“No one in here is using cutlery,” David pointed out, “and somehow they are eating curry. How do they do that and still keep their dishdashas clean?”
“I have no idea,” I replied, “If I tried that, my lunch would be down the front of my shirt.” Our waiter looked after us, brought the hot and tasty food, and thankfully provided us with knives and forks.
We enjoyed our lunch in this busy restaurant, which with a healthy tip came to just RO10, and decided that the Zaki restaurant, advertised as ZFC, was a notch above the competition.
So what of the future for Sur? The new transport infrastructure will certainly help to promote business and therefore employment opportunities, as will the commitment of Oman LNG to the town.
There is a College of Applied Sciences, with about 4,000 students. The natural resources of this seaside town are its major attribute. The authorities need to maximise the potential of the sea and the bay; to create improvements to the city centre and the promenade; and to plan to provide entertainment for the people who live there.
There are also opportunities to increase tourism here, with the close proximity of Sur to the turtles at Ras al Hadd, the white sandy beaches of Fins, the famous sinkhole for those seeking excitement, and Wadi Tiwi for those looking for natural beauty.
Let us hope that those with the power to shape the future of Sur can grasp some of these opportunities to ensure that the town has a vibrant and sustainable future.