A Day in the Desert Island – Masirah
Monday, the 3rd of February 2014, started as a rather cool windy day, not too bad for driving. We started at 9.00 Hrs in the morning at Muscat and took the Nizwa road. At Bid Bid we took left to reach on Sur road for Sinaw.
The first leg of our journey, with driver Farooq, took us to Sinaw and we had a great lunch in a Kerala Coffee shop there. Being a vegetarian i took roti along with Dal and Sabji.
The second stretch of journey started through the Sinaw village head for Mahoot. The drive is almost 200KM and most of this is boring driving through a flat desert along a straight road (handy to know that there are two petrol filling stations in between).
Sinaw to Mahoot Road
After Sinaw, around noon, the wind had picked up significantly and the first drifts of sands were blowing across the tarmac road. The air was filled with sand, blasting against the cars. We were hoping to get less sand closer to the seashore and therefore we continued our journey. Indeed, close to Mahoot round about the air cleared and we left the drifting sands behind. At Mahoot round about we entered in the first ROP (Royal Oman Police) check post and shown our Resident cards and Mulkhiya (Vehicle registration card). From the round about it is some 75 km to the jetty at Shana.
The last stretch of the drive is almost level with the sea and sabkha (recent coastal sediments with a high salt) at either side. Watch the white salt crust and if you are lucky you may see some locals collecting salt in bags.
Near Shanna – Jetty Protection from Heavy tides
The drive from Muscat to the Shanna Jetty is about 490 km and will take 6 hours drive, depending on stops. For this visit we left at 9:00 hrs from Muscat and arrived at the Jetty at 16:00 hrs. Still a 1½-hour ferry crossing is pending to enter into the island.
Fishing activities – An Omani boy with his brother
Shanna Jetty Approach bridge
You can reach the island by a large ferry, known locally as Alyasoora. This is a large carrier that carries cars, goods and people to the island from morning until evening but only at high tide, which has no real time schedule and leaves from Shanna to Masirah several times a day.
Getting on the ferry is an experience, after a waiting of a 1 hour we entered into a ferry deck. We got into a conversation with one of the Omani’s on board who explained about the local people customs and culture in island. He was very keen to leave us with a good feeling about. It remains always amazing how friendly the Omani’s are.
Finally we reached Masirah – an island off the south-east coast of Oman at 18.30 Hrs.
In that trip we stayed in Masirah Island Resorts. The ambience & hospitality of the resort is unbelievable. As we did a prior booking, we had a quick check in the resort. After finishing dinner we went for a nice night walk in the lawns of the resort. We had a good sleep in the island
After finishing Breakfast we checked out the resort and started driving along with beach coast. The route down the coast makes for us a memorable trip.
As a visitor to Masirah Island, you’ll feel here the harmony of nature, the calmness of the sea waves, and the cool breeze which giving you a deep sense of peacefulness as you breathe the pure air. Breezes off the Arabian Sea mean Masirah is 10 degrees cooler than the baking mainland for much of the year
One more curious visitor looking for sunrise from his vehicle
Masirah is approximately 40 miles long by 10 miles wide at it’s widest point and five miles wide at its narrowest point and a population estimated at 12,000 in 12 villages mainly in the north of the island
The Island mainly contains a Royal Air Force of Oman air base and a fish factory and main town has a few shops and a several cafes and restaurants, but it is very difficult to find out a vegetarian food.
A breif history about Masirah extracted from one of the RAFO Book
“Beginning in the 1930s, Masirah was used as a British military base. A small stone building, a fuel store for flying boats, was at the midpoint of the island on the West side, and had a stone above the door inscribed “RAF 1936”. Reputedly, the fuel store was locked and visiting aircrew used to bring a key, refuel from cans, lock the store and fly onwards. During World War 2, the United States also had a base on the island. The base continued to expand into the 1970s supporting British and Oman forces fighting insurgents during the Dhofar Rebellion and providing transit facilities for long distance RAF flights.
Royal air force of Oman air base
The British military presence at RAF Masirah extended until 31 March 1977, when the base was handed over to the Sultan of Oman’s Air Force (now the Royal Air Force of Oman), becoming first SOAF Masirah and then RAFO Masirah.”
You can camp on the beaches and there are a couple of small guest houses, Masirah Hotel & Masirah Island Resort are available depends on your budget.
The main industries are fishing and traditional textile manufacturing. Formerly, traditional ship building was important.
Masirah must contain the largest collection of vintage Defenders in the world, thanks to the long presence of the RAF on the Island. The aluminium body survives happily in the salty environment and the car is the clear favourite of the local fishermen.
The island is ideal for wreck-visiting, but the interior also features quite some beauty spots.
We were not sure about the ferry departure time and decided for an early start, packing at 11:00 hrs of the 4th February. It generally took another hour to get back to the jetty at Masirah.
This time we boarded the bigger barge, but discovered that bigger barges also take longer to load. There is always something to see on board…
Finally i conclude the story with “… a big island where the people live on fish only…’
Hello I am Srikanth Ayyagari, an engineering bid estimator by profession and frequent traveller, Photographer by passionate.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or +968 97146905