Sur (Oman): A picture-perfect lighthouse, a dhow factory, wadis, a cinema hall, mountains, fishing, boating and a few exotic beaches -- Sur, the second-richest city in Oman after the capital Muscat, has a lot to offer to travel junkies.
Situated on the north-eastern coast of Oman, the city, which is the capital of the Ash Sharqiyah region and means "selling port" in Arabic, proved a surprise package as one approached along the highway. Unlike most "rich towns", this place -- some 200 kms south of Muscat, makes an impact with its simplicity.
The Al Ayjah Lighthouse, the place I stopped at first, provided a dazzling view of the sea and the modest architecture of the houses in the city. Once the entourage soaked in this sight, there were more reasons to say "Wow". Wadi Tiwi and Wadi Ash Shab, where you can go boating, banished the torpor that came with the soaring temperature -- around 40 degree celsius -- and created the urge to hit the beaches.
But that had to wait as the next stop was one of the 10 "dhow" factories in Sur. Al Ayjah Dhow Factory -- owned by 80-year-old Uncle Juma -- had 50 workers, mainly from the Indian state of Kerala. And it was heartening to know that some of them have been living fulfilled lives while working at the factory for well over 25 years.
It was a beautiful experience to witness what goes behind the making of boats, which were being constructed for a Qatar-based businessman who was to open a restaurant ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the country.
While walking along the streets of Sur, you get to see the City Cinema hall, which has its last show till midnight and screens a mix of Hollywood and Indian movies -- the latest being Malayalam film "Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela". The town also has popular eateries like KFC and McDonald's -- otherwise quite rare to find in Oman.
As you cross the sea bridge over the distinctly green water, you get a glimpse of multiple beaches. As we stopped at one, the water urged me to take a plunge -- but not being a water baby, I chose to keep away and admire the beauty from afar.
While driving out of Sur -- and as I regretted not venturing into the water -- emerged another mesmerising landscape: The Hawiyat Najm Park, which has a 200-metre sinkhole filled with sea water. The sinkhole, locals insist, came into existence after a meteor fell there. It was a treat to watch people taking a dip and enjoying the water in the sweltering heat of the desert.
If the picturesque landscape of Sur fails to captivate you, the town -- famous for its pearls -- has some other facets that might blow your mind away.
Our guide informed us that the 120,000 locals living in 112 small localities in Sur, get "double salary". Guess how? Because of the charity work done by the Bahwan brothers -- Suhail and Saud. Since the last few decades, the twins have been giving money and food products to the locals of Sur for free.
All said, Sur is an exotic town to visit, if you don't mind the heat. And the locals are really helpful and friendly.