Will the eastern coast of Oman be the next Maldives?

The government is preparing the nation for the future with the harsh reality that Oman’s oil will be severely depleted by the year 2030. But at the same time the government is also urging the private sector to diversify their own businesses to areas that are least exploited to bring in more income for them. It is not anymore how the government can diversify the economy away from oil dependence but how companies can look for new revenues to survive.
A Chinese business delegation last month visited the eastern region’s towns. They were simply in awe to see the sheer beauty and tranquillity of the area.
Two words came out from the lips of the head of the delegation, which was “new Maldives.” The town in the eastern region that caught up their attention was Ras Al Hadd. So what is the big deal about this sleepy little town and the adjacent areas?
Ras Al Hadd, which is nestling cozely just 90 km from Sur, has indeed all the making of being the Maldives of the Middle East. The village has white sandy beaches, sparkling blue water and cloudless sky. The guarantee of the sun shining down on the beautiful oasis of land is a huge advantage to European sun worshippers.
But the jewel on the crown of Ras Al Hadd are the rare turtles that come to nest on its beaches. The hawksbill and greenback species are the rarest sea turtles in the world found in very few places. Marine Scientists have placed Ras al Hadd as a centrestage of these two most important breeds.
But Ras Al Hadd has more to offer than that. Its clear sea is rich with a kaleidoscope of corals attracting divers to explore the fascination in the depth of the warm water.
Tourists looking for complete tranquillity also come for snorkelling, para sailing or just simply overnight camping on the beach. The picturesque villages in Ras Al Hadd are also a great attraction to the discerning tourists. A quiet walk in the historical streets would take one to old castles, watch towers and rich heritage.
But that is not all you can explore in the town. The old marketplace or souq as its known in Arabic, is a picture right from the Arabian Nights stories. The veiled women and men with flowing beards would take you back a thousand years down the history pages.
Sharqiyah as a whole, has an endless stretch of beach from Tiwi to the town Ashkhara. There are no statistics at the moment of how many tourists visit the area from the 1.8 million that come to the country every year.
However, according to the estimates from residents in the area, less then ten percent of the total tourists in Oman visit Sharqiyah. While Salalah is mostly promoted to tourists, no effort at all is concentrated to perhaps the most beautiful part of the country.
But Sur is another jewel in the crown of the Sharqiyah Governorate. Its history will definitely fascinate visitors from all over the world.
The former seafaring town of old Oman, Sur built dhows that sailed and endured the roughest waves in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The Sultanah, which sailed to the United States in 1833, was built in Sur.
The old seafarers created an empire of Oman in central and eastern Africa from boats built mainly from Sur.
Ashkhara, which is only half an hour drive from Ras Al Hadd, is another town with beaches that are unrivalled in the Middle East.
However, the Sharqiyah has very few hotels and most of them are not to the international standards. With oil reserves of the country depleting rapidly, the Sharqiyah Governorate will match the prediction of the head of the Chinese delegation to be the Maldives of the Middle East.

saleh_shaibany@yahoo.com