Friday, April 27: After leaving Sohar, we head down the recently built highway leading inland toward Ibri via Yanqul. Yanqul is only about 110km from Sohar and we figure it will be a fast drive, but at one point we come to a police checkpoint where there is a road going right. No one at the police checkpoint seems to want to move from under their shady tarp, so we proceed straight ahead. We seem to be driving quite a distance and we start to get a little worried because we don’t see any signs for Yanqul.
At one point we stop to take pictures of a wadi filled with dead date palms and an abandoned village and we wonder what happened that led to the demise of this place. We figure that, at some point, the water source must have been diverted from this town because other towns are still flourishing along this route.
At some random town that has a pretty little white mosque with a mint-green dome, we stop and ask a boy about Yanqul. He says something in garbled English about the police checkpoint. He seems to be gesturing for us to turn around and go back to the police checkpoint and turn there. But the police checkpoint was so far back!! For some bizarre reason we think he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and we decide to continue on our way. Surely if we continue we will hit Yanqul!
We wind up and around a mountain for quite some distance and end up in another small village where we ask two more men about Yanqul. One of them says he speaks French, but little English, and the other keeps gesturing and saying “police checkpoint.” I guess now we have to face the fact that no matter how many people we ask, no one is going to tell us we’re going the right way to Yanqul.
Dejected, we turn around at this point and head back to the police checkpoint which is probably 40-50 km back in the direction from which we came! There we see the sign that we missed the first time around that told us to turn right. Finally, we head off in the right direction!
We drive to Yanqul, which is really just a remote and quiet little town in the shadow of Jebel al Hawra. We drop in to see the town’s nice mudbrick fort, the Bait al Marah, built at the beginning of the 17th century by the Nabhani dynasty. The fort has more than 4 sides, possibly 5 or 6, but I forgot to count how many!
We head out of Yanqul toward Ibri, passing fascinating rock formations such as thin rock pinnacles, craggy ridge tops and table mountains. This reminds me of the southwest USA, where tablet-top mountains are quite prevalent.