This flat and fertile strip of land between the Hajar Mountains and the Gulf of Oman is the country’s breadbasket and most populous area. Interesting sites include the old castle towns of Nakhal and Rustaq, exhilarating off-road destinations such as Wadi Bani Awf and Wadi Hoqain, the fishing towns of Barka and Sohar, and an attractive resort at Sawadi.
Many of the sights can be managed on day trips from Muscat, with a tour company or even by public transport. A more enjoyable way of visiting, however, is to hire a car and visit Nakhal and Rustaq en route to Sohar, returning via Sawadi and Barka on a two- or three-day trip. This is difficult to accomplish if relying only on public transport, particularly as there is limited accommodation. With a 4WD (even better with camping equipment), side trips into Wadi Bani Awf or Wadi Hoqain open the door to some of the most dramatic landscapes in the country.
It’s also possible to combine the above route with a visit to (or preferably from) the Western Hajar Mountain region by using the 4WD mountain road via Hatt and Wadi Bani Awf. In addition, there are many other spectacular wadis with remote villages and superb desert mountain scenery, accessible to those with a 4WD, an off-road guide and a sense of adventure.
On the Muscat–Sohar Hwy, elaborately decorated mosques reflect the Persian influence of the Farsi people who have settled in the region. Also look out for forts guarding the coastal strip at As-Suwayq, Al-Khabura and Saham. None particularly warrant getting off a bus for, but they may be worth a leg stretch from your own vehicle. Note that large portions of the highway are being widened and flyovers constructed over the main intersections in place of roundabouts. This means that until 2014 there are likely to be considerable delays eastbound around the construction sites between 6am and 8am and from about 4pm to 6pm westbound.