x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Rocking all round Oman

While our Traffic Warden reported last week that the UAE seems to be eliminating them, our neighbours seem to revel in roundabouts.

A few weekends ago, I wandered across the Omani border. It was my first drive from Dubai to Muscat and I asked a friend for some advice - is it a hard drive? Would I get hopelessly lost? She informed me it was as easy as following the Hatta signs off Sheikh Zayed Road. Sure enough, it was that simple, and I hit the border crossing at Hatta in little more than an hour. Once across the border, its really one long straight shot right to Muscat. I was warned by my friend that the only bends on the road would be several roundabouts that break up an otherwise undeviating road. That information couldn't have been more on the dot. For me, Muscat will forever lie three-and-a-half hours and 23 roundabouts across the Emirati border (yes, I counted...). And what roundabouts they are! While our Traffic Warden reported last week that the UAE seems to be eliminating them, our neighbours seem to revel in roundabouts.

In Oman, these delights are the real eye candy on the roads. It's hard not to slow down and take in the boats, greenery, gazebos; all decked out in lively colors and, my personal favourite, roundabout number seven, a splendid mini globe which brought back memories of Saudi and the huge globe down Malek Road. The landscape was very different and roadsides were, for the most part, green and well-kept. Along the way, I saw people parked under trees for afternoon naps. I was worried there would be traces of the recent cyclone. I couldn't help but imagine Moby, my Nissan Sunny, heading for a dive along the Omani roads. Happily, the only hint of a cyclone were signs that warned to "Stop if water on red" in front of red and white poles stuck in the ground. I saw no danger of water levels reaching the red lines, which was good as Moby has no experience in waddling through water, even if he is named after a whale.

It was a comfortable drive, except for the naughty truckers. These gents proved to be the exception to the tranquilty of Oman. I eased on my brakes to avoid close encounters with lorry drivers who constantly overtook their slower counterparts. But overall, the driving made me aware that I wasn't in the UAE anymore. I witnessed only one tailgate attempt - perhaps people in Oman aren't in such a hurry.

The lack of signalling was still common, but the need to move was seldom as everyone kept reasonable speeds and the traffic flowed. In Oman, manners have a solid presence. Flash cars are not a big thing here - I saw but one Bentley, two Porsche Cayennes and a couple of Lexuses and Mercs. Licence plates in the lower digits were not the dish du jour either. I thought of friends who insist on flying to Muscat and wondered why. Besides the ornate road delights, what you save opting for a road trip compared to a flight makes all the difference. And garages throughout Oman accepted our dirhams, which made things easier. Directions aren't so much of a problem, especially if you are used to spinning around Dubai.

A grand total of Dh160 on petrol, nearly four hours of funky sights and easy, relaxed driving make for a winning formula in my book. Next time you consider a weekend getaway, take a road trip to Muscat. It lies just three-and-a-half hours and 23 roundabouts across the border from Dubai. motoring@thenational.ae