Alvin Thomas and his brothers head out of the city in a Maserati in search of a heavenly highway -and what could possibly be the best road in Oman.
Rumour has it that Oman has some of the best driving roads in the world.
It’s a bold statement that should have many car enthusiasts up in arms.
However, in a recent episode of the BBC’s Top Gear, presenters Matt Le Blanc and Chris Harris took a road trip from Dubai to Jebel Akhdar, during which they ascended the mountain roads that led up to the Anantara al Jabal al Akhdar resort.
It was striking but I reckoned we could go one better; you know, because we know the place better and all. Thus the idea grew: why not try to find the perfect driving road in Oman – and one that anyone can head to in their sedan or sports car?
After all, the roads of Jebel Akhdar can only be accessed by SUVs.
The platform for our search was set this week when we took the keys to a Maserati Quattroporte – an Italian super-sedan – and our point of interest was the road that connects Yiti and Sifah, through Al Khiran.
People around the area clam up when anyone asks about this road as they want it to be as untainted by traffic as it can be.
But we have known about it for a while and therefore decided to head there to take some pictures and possibly to find out if it is as good a highway as several people we know claim it is.
My two brothers (Allen and Jijin) and I started early in the day, for no apparent reason since traffic isn’t something to worry about here. We headed onto Al Bustan road from Ruwi. From there, we took the turn-off towards Qantab.
Up until then, the roads were pretty straightforward with only light traffic. However, we quickly found that the road to Qantab is truly one to behold. It is a series of ups and downs (with no twists and turns) and is the perfect location for testing your car’s capabilities, as it stresses the engine while going uphill.
But we knew that this was only the start. So, we continued on our way into the whereabouts of Wadi Mayh and the Yiti, which is past Al Jissah Street that overlooks the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa.
And this, for me, is where the real driving road that we were looking for kicked off.
From here on, both sides of the road are occasionally surrounded by tall mountains, with the road snaking far into the horizon. The biggest fear of driving on this stretch of road is the sheer drops to the sides. One mistake could see you tumbling down the rocks. So you have to be extra careful to stick to the speed limit here.
The greenery is scarce but it is just enough to break up the sepia of the mountains. It really is a beautiful sight, and it would be the perfect setting for a movie shoot if the temperature conditions were right.
However, as we delved deeper we saw a huge mountain rising over the surface. This incidentally is also the entrance towards Yiti road. But, we weren’t planning on exploring Yiti, and therefore stuck to our plan of finding the best driving road in Oman.
And boy, were we in for a treat or what?
The entrance to the road is marked by a tall mountain that rises over to obstruct your view of the sky. From here, we were completely in the shade so the temperature was perfect. We put down our windows to let some fresh air into our car.
A few metres into the drive, we came face-to-face with what we were searching for: the twists and turns. So we set our car in “Sport” mode and gave it a boot full of throttle; all within the legal limits, though. The sound of the wailing Italian engine set the mountains alive: it was like nature and man becoming one to create a symphony.
And what a symphony we made. We even caught a few tourists filming our drive, and showing us the thumbs up as we drove along.
There are no sheer drops to worry about here, as the path takes you deep through the bowels of the rocks. But, I couldn’t help but think of the blood, sweat and tears the workers must have shed during the making of this road.
We ate up miles without knowing it, reaching the apex of the famous road to Al Khiran in just a few minutes. And it was here, where we hit an epiphany: to the left is the beautiful lake that is fed by the Arabian Sea, and to the right, the mountains.
And cruising along in a Maserati, we couldn’t help but cue Matt Monro’s song On Days Like These from the movie The Italian Job. For the duration of the song, the three of us kept quiet, only concentrating on the twisty road that stretched ahead while soaking up the beauty of the mountains that seemed to be painted across the horizon – sort of like a landscape painting.
So, at 11.30am, we marked our memorable journey by coming to a halt on the side of the road to discuss the highlights and lowlights of the Yiti-Sifah road.
And for the first time ever, we came to a mutual conclusion – and one that we never thought we would come to: we had just scaled one of the best driving roads not just in Oman but also one of the best in the world.
And as the golden-voiced Mr Monro sings, it really is on days like these that I remember singing songs and drinking… Coca-Cola.
From Muscat, take the exit towards the Qantab road. Keep straight and then take the first exit from the Yiti roundabout. You have reached the Yiti-Sifah road. There are a series of bends and climbs that you will have to take to reach Al Khiran.