If there is one industrial town in Oman that has not lost its importance from the days of yore, it’s Sur. You know you’ve entered a town that prides on its traditional heritage when the maze of streets showcase ancient residential dwellings each of which still carry a mark of the past on its majestic carved doors and Arabesque windows.
Long considered as Oman’s prime trading ports, the calm and serene coastal town is the capital of Ash Sharqiyah on the coast of the Gulf of Oman. Sur has always been the epicentre of travel and trade in this region. Its vessels have ruled the waters since many a centuries! Its strategic location has always helped in maintaining and monitoring peace in the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean.
Although it no longer retains its prominence in the trade industry, Sur continues to be the best in building wooden ships, at least in the Gulf region. A couple of centuries back this town built ships for clients in China, India, Iraq and other prominent trade destinations in the region. And although the dhow yards in Sur have reduced considerably given the fast decline in the demand for dhows since almost a century now, the charm and character of the laid-back town remains unfazed.
For in spite of all the odds, a few dhow yards continue with the dhow-building tradition exactly the way it was carried centuries back! Till date not a worker refers to a blue-print or a sketch to build a dhow. So skilled are the traditional workers at the dhow yard that they know every step of the process like the back of their hand!
Undeterred by Cyclone Gonu in June, 2007, Sur’s ship-building prowess still attracts the rich and the famous from across the world for unmatched water babies! Many sheikhs and sultans in the Middle East boast of dhows built exclusively in Sur.
If there is one remnant of the bygone era in the vicinity of this dhow yard, it’s the lighthouse tower built by the Portugese during the 16th century. This was of course, extremely necessary given the bustling sea-traffic that went in and out of Sur during those days. On a lighter note, legend has it that Sindbad the Sailor lived in Sur. Did he? I am not really sure. But that’s the stuff legends are made of!