Sohar: The Ancient Capital Of Oman Sohar

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01 Aug 2019 Posted By Y Magazine

Overview

Echoes of history reverberate on the sea breeze in Oman’s northern coastal port city, as Ashlee Starratt discovers.

‘Sohar’, as a word, carries an exotic inflection – rolling off the tongue in open vowels that trail off on the breath. Sohar as a place is equally so; carrying the same exotic resonance to match the timbre of its name.

Once the Sultanate’s ancient capital, it’s role in its history as a vital port city along the trade routes of ancient Rome and Phoenicia, as well as the spice routes of Persia and the Far East. Gold coins dating back as far as 1601 AD featuring the face of Roman Emperor Tiberius have been found in the bedrock of Sohar Fort.

Just a two-hour drive from Muscat, Sohar still remains an idyllic bastion of maritime tradition. We set out mid-morning from Muscat on a sleepy Saturday, aiming to travel along the Al Batinah Coastal Highway for as far as we could. A beautiful drive, but with certain stretches closed amid construction we ended up make the lion’s share of our road-trip along the Sultan Qaboos Highway.

The blacktop slipping by under our wheels, we left Muscat in our rearview mirror, passing through the small townships of the coastal communities on the way to North Batinah. Reaching Sohar, you’ll pass through its monumental gate, and follow a lushly-manicured green-belt road towards the city proper, passing by the stunning Sultan Qaboos Mosque Sohar with its cerulean-blue mosaic-tiled domes and minarets.

Driving through the city centre and past the Sohar Port, it’s evident that commerce is thriving in this port city, which has been designated as an economic free-zone within the Sultanate – playing an important role in Oman’s Vision 2040. With current investments upwards of $12 billion USD, it’s one of the world’s largest port developments.

Heeding the call of the coast, we drive away from the city centre towards the water and the small Corniche that overlooks it – not far from the Sohar Fort. Open from 8:00 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. daily, the white-washed fort – now converted into an archaeological and cultural museum – was once an important 14th-century stronghold during the rule of the Portuguese. Today, the museum is home to a variety of cultural artifacts and highlights the history of Sohar’s copper trade with ancient China.

After exploring its exhibits, we get some fresh air along the Corniche promenade and stroll along the sun-drenched beach, before heading over to wander through the Sohar Coastal Market and then onward to the Handicraft Market. These lively souqs hearken back to times long gone and the ancient bazaars of old. They’re the perfect place to watch traditional industries that still live on and pick up a hand-woven mat at one stall and lush frankincense or myrrh at the apothecarys.

Sohar is a city whose values of tradition and ancient roots run deep. But, as its massive port development and bustling city centre will attest, it’s also a city that’s not afraid to build upon the institutions of its past, to shape its future.

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Location

Sohar
Length:
Difficulty: Easy
Dist. from Muscat: 200kms


GPS Location

24.3461° N; 56.7075° E


Known For

Adventure, Great drive, Historic landmark, Long beach


TRAVEL GUIDE

From Muscat, follow the Sultan Qaboos Highway towards Barka on the Muscat-Dubai route. Keep on the straight stretch for two hours until you reach the Sohar Gate. Follow the road past the Grand Mosque and follow the signs for the city centre. After reaching the city centre, keep an eye out for further signs to the Sohar Fort, about a ten-minute drive away.


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