Friday, February 10: Roundabouts are the order of the day throughout Oman. Traffic signals are seldom used; instead, in every town are the ubiquitous roundabouts. A roundabout is a circular intersection, a junction in which road traffic flows in one direction around a central island. In a roundabout, entering traffic must always yield to traffic already in the circle.
There is an ongoing argument among ex-pats as to how to tell directions when a roundabout is part of a route. I envision a roundabout as the same as a traffic signal. So if someone is approaching a roundabout and needs to turn left off the main road, I say, “take a left at the roundabout.” However, other expats say you can only take a right turn off a roundabout and so you should say “take the third exit off the roundabout” for a left turn. Hmmm. I’d be curious to know what my readers think.
Usually Oman’s roundabouts have some kind of theme which captures what the town is all about. In the case of Nizwa, there are two roundabouts, the Khanjar Roundabout and the Book Roundabout. Though I have driven around these too many times to count, today I decided to photograph them for the world to see.
Here is the Khanjar Roundabout. As everyone knows, if you have read my previous postings, khanjar is Arabic for dagger. The traditional Omani khanjar is carved and sharpened on both edges and carried in a sheath decorated in silver. It is a symbolic weapon worn by men after puberty. It appears on the Omani flag, and is part of Oman’s national emblem. Since the Nizwa souq specializes in selling handcrafted khanjar, this roundabout theme is a perfect symbol of Nizwa.
At the other end of Nizwa is the Book Roundabout. The books apparently symbolize that Nizwa was renowned as a center of learning and was sometimes called the ‘Pearl of Islam’.
There are only three exits off the Book Roundabout. One comes from Firq and the Khanjar Roundabout, one goes in the direction of Bahla, and the other goes into the commercial area of the souq in Nizwa. I love the roundabouts in Oman. Each one tells a story, and then sends you circling into orbit in all directions….