Oman // Sharqiya //

Jaylah and around

Some 4km south of the turn-off for Fins, brown signs point inland to the ancient tombs of Jaylah (or Gaylah) and the village of Quran. This is one of the most memorable drives in Sharqiya, a spectacular off-road traverse of the barren uplands at the top of the Eastern Hajar with a cluster of wonderfully atmospheric Bronze Age beehive tombs en route. The track also offers a convenient short cut from the coast to Ibra, although it’s probably no quicker than taking the main road through Sur. The route comprises about 50km of generally good graded track, but there are some pretty rough, and sometimes extremely steep, sections here and there – 4WD is essential, as are strong nerves if you’re driving yourself.

The route begins by switchbacking vertiginously up the flanks of the Eastern Hajar, a breathless thirty-minute drive with increasingly spectacular views down to the coast below. At the top, you reach the sere Salma Plateau at the summit of the Eastern Hajar: a rolling expanse of gravel plain, dotted with only the sparsest of vegetation. There’s virtually no sign of human habitation until you reach tiny Quran, one of the loneliest villages in Oman – little more than a haphazard cluster of houses tucked away in the lee of cliff, and feeling an awfully long way from anywhere.