With its rocky interior of palm oases and gorgeous rim of sandy beaches, Masirah is the typical desert island. Flamingos, herons and oyster-catchers patrol the coast by day, and armies of ghost crabs march ashore at night. Home to a rare shell, the Eloise, and large turtle-nesting sites, the island is justifiably fabled as a naturalist’s paradise.
Ibra, the gateway to the Sharqiya Region, enjoyed great prosperity during Oman’s colonial period as the aristocratic locals set sail for Zanzibar and sent money home for plantations and luxury residences, still in evidence in the old quarter of town. The tradition of farming is continued today, with rich plots producing vegetables, bananas, mangos and, of course, dates.
You'll notice as you drive around the island that the rough Indian Ocean contrasts with the calm and shallow Masirah Channel, lending a completely different character to the island on either side. There are one or two attractions to draw the visitor away from the beach, including the Baron Inverdale Monument, at the far northwest of the island (currently off limits).
Jalan Bani Bu Hassan & Jalan Bani Bu Ali
These towns comprise a conglomeration of watchtowers, old fortified houses, forts and ancient plantation walls, all of which lie crumbling in various states of beloved dereliction. There has been little attempt to court the modern world and none at all to woo the visitor, making a visit to these sites all the more rewarding.
Many people pay a visit to Sinaw just to see its rather wonderful souq, but this modest town does have one or two other, mostly overlooked attractions. If you pass the souq gate on your left and veer around to the right, a left turn after about 500m takes you up the hill towards a cemetery. After a couple of kilometres more, you’ll come to the old town of Sinaw.
Despite some interesting old architecture, including a fort and watchtowers, this small town is more commonly known as an important junction with Al Ashkarah Rd and the Muscat–Sur Hwy, punctuated by local-style cafes. It is something of a rarity in Oman, however, for being one of the few towns in the country surrounded by trees.
The small town of Hilf, a 3km string of jetties, shops and fish factories in the northwest, is home to most of Masirah's population. Car ferries from the mainland dock at any of the three main jetties that line up along the corniche, which runs parallel with the main street in town.
Sharqiya (Wahiba) Sands
A destination in their own right, or a diversion between Muscat and Sur, these beautiful dunes, still referred to locally as Wahiba Sands, could keep visitors occupied for days. Home to the Bedu, the sands offer visitors a glimpse of a traditional way of life that is fast disappearing as modern conveniences limit the need for a nomadic existence.
Wadi Khabbah & Wadi Tayein
These two wide and luscious wadis meander along the western base of the Eastern Hajar Mountains and provide a fascinating alternative route between Muscat and Sur. A 4WD is needed to navigate the off-road sections, which invariably involve fording water. The picture of rural wadi life that unfolds as you meander through the spectacular mountain scenery is a highlight.