From the giant incense burner atop the mountains of Muttrah to the more concealed statues of gazelles and swords en route to Muscat on the Qurum Heights, the Sultanate is a haven for unique cyphers.
While some denote the rich history and tradition of the lands – like the incense burner, which shows Oman’s longstanding fascination for perfumes (frankincense, mostly) – others are downright quirky; like the word “Fanja” that has been etched out in Arabic atop the mountains overlooking the ancient village.
This week, we take a look at some of the more accessible ones – and give you a run down on whether it’s worth your time on a weekend or not.
The cityscape of Shatti al Qurum isn’t complete without the new Arches Fountain. Complementing the iconic Royal Opera House Muscat, there are beautiful villas on the sidelines and a general luxe brought in by the flashy exotics prowling around in the region. Here, the new 12-metre-high fountain manages to steal the show with its twirling structure and array of lights that illuminates the sprays of water falling from the top. While the general design of the structure has raised questions; some say it’s designed to look like a leaf while others say it’s a mere coincidence. So, what is it? We think it’s avant-garde.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s an unlikely association – graffiti and nature – but somehow, amid one of Oman’s most sought-after tourist spots, Wadi Shab, it works. While graffiti itself is known to be a very expressive form of art, the abstract spray paintings of what looks to be Omani men – complete with their own colour sets and shapes – portrays Oman’s love for art in the most modest manner (brash tones aside). Set on a pillar near the wadi, the spot is now a tourist attraction, and visitors aren’t shy about taking selfies with the two Omani men.
Beached on the shore, the old boat of Bandar al Khiran has no name. In fact, delving into the past with the locals, we’re met with nothing more than a few blank stares. There’s probably a very intriguing story here – one that probably dates back several decades (judging by the age of the dhow). But today, it lies there unused and as an ornament, welcoming the scores of tourists that flock to the lagoon for a spot of swimming and fishing. Oh, and yes, it’s also a great spot to click some photos with the dhow. Just imagine the Instagram-worthy images you could pull out with a retro filter.
A little-known fact known only by those residing there, the Al Atkiya region of Al Amerat actually lays ground to the Tropic of Cancer, which is also known as the Northern Tropic. As it goes, it demarcates the most northerly circle of latitude on Earth at which the Sun can be directly overhead. Denoted by a simple brown board with white text, it rarely provokes anything more than a few stares by passers-by. Of course, a few others decide to take selfies with it – which we think is justified. Just don’t ask why there’s no dotted line passing through the surface of the Earth like it does on your globe. Just don’t…
Oman was once home to several unique roundabouts but the onset of road development meant swapping those pesky turnarounds for more efficient flyovers. Standing the test of time, however, is the clock roundabout. Once known to be one of the most complicated turnarounds of its time – mostly due to the three lanes that commuters could choose from and the lack of a signal – it was also a pass-through for those travelling from Muscat to the city of Sur. The clock tower roundabout is still used as a landmark today for those travelling to Burj A’ Sahwa, and is regularly flocked by taxis who scamper about their daily lives. Due to its busy nature, it isn’t a tourist attraction, yet, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t ended up on social media for its intricate ornaments and paintings.