25-Nov-2002 -- We spent three weeks in November/December 2002 (straddling the Islamic Ramaḍān/`Īdu-l-Fiṭr holidays) travelling in Oman. The furthest our circuit took us from our home in Riyāḍ, Saudi Arabia, was the southern city of Ṣalāla, where we visited our first urban confluence point at 17N 54E. On the way south we visited 21N 57E, 20N 56E, and 18N 54E; and on the way to the east coast of Oman (on our return) we visited 18N 55E, 18N 56E and 19N 57E. In all we motored 8,300 km.
From north Oman we drove south along the empty Masqaṭ-Ṣalāla highway for 180 km before leaving it for well-graded tracks to visit a salt dome. The otherwise flat gravel desert visible from the road is interrupted by a number of large steep hillocks, where the underlying salt layer has expanded and tried to force through the surface. Only in a few places is the salt actually exposed. We followed tracks for 40 km, to get to one such place, not the most direct route but the quickest, as driving over the desert without a track is slow. It was our first experience of driving any distance off road in this region of the country. Where the Oil Company operates, the tracks are well maintained and the larger intersections are even laid out with roundabouts and blue and white direction signs.
We found the dome with exposed salt area with little difficulty, only the last km or so being completely off road and slightly soft in parts. Our lunch break was spent exploring the areas where many years ago the Bedouins had dug holes and caves to obtain chunks of rock salt, and, reputedly, sulphur for treating their camels. The only life we saw was a bolting desert fox.
After returning to the highway and driving 35 km south, we went truly cross country for 30 km to the confluence point, which when we reached it, we now knew was a typical stretch of the region's gravel desert.
Continued at 20N 56E.