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Home > Destination > Sur Dhow Factory

Sur, Oman – The sound of hammers on teak and the whiff of co­conut oil invade the sens­es when visiting Sur, the same way it did for visi­tors of the Omani coastal town cen­turies ago. The sounds and smells come from the last remaining fac­tory that builds Oman’s traditional wooden boats, the dhows.

Boats have been built in Sur, on the shores of the Gulf of Oman, for thousands of years. The dhows, some capable of carrying up to 600 tonnes of cargo, sailed across the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean and even reached China.

Dhows are no longer used for the trade that led to Oman’s prosper­ity in ancient times and Sur’s boat builders no longer produce the gi­ants of the dhow family.

“The shipyard belongs to the family whose members have been building dhows for hundreds of years,” explains boat builder Jumaa bin Hassoun, one of the last oustaz (Arabic for “master”), a name used to designate lead carpenters in the old days.

“Nowadays, all the boats we are building are smaller and go to the tourism sector as well as some pri­vate buyers, notably for wealthy Qatari businessmen, like this one you see here ready to hit the sea,” bin Hassoun said pointing at the vessel with its timbers curved to­wards the upswept prow, a shape reminiscent of an Arabian sword.

The wooden ships are built with­out referring to sketches or blue­prints, he said. “All the plans for construction are in here,” he add­ed, pointing at his head. “Inshal­lah, my son Mohamed will take over our ancestors’ knowledge and skills after me to continue the legacy.”

Seafaring and trade is at the core of Oman’s history. Located at the tip of the Arabian peninsula, Oman had maritime trade links with the ancient cities of Ur and Sumer in Iraq and the Indus valley in India due to its excellent boat-building capability and its sailors’ naviga­tion skills.

The dhow yards in Sur, however, have rapidly declined as the de­mand for the vessels plummeted in recent decades.

“Now people prefer to build fi­breglass boats because they are much cheaper to make and easier to maintain,” bin Hassoun said, fearing that Omani dhows may soon be relegated to a museum as a symbol of Oman’s past.

In the last 12 months, bin Has­soun had only two orders for wooden dhows. This is hardly suf­ficient to sustain his business, which employs 15 workers, almost all Indian carpenters, he said.

Old seafarers remain deeply nos­talgic about the time when dhows were Oman’s main means of sea travel.

“It used to take us sometimes two months to reach the island of Zanzibar (off the coast of east Africa) with the dhows,” recalled Nasser al Alawi, an elderly captain from Sur.

“In order to get there, we used to go first from Sur to Salalah (south of Oman), then to Yemen after which we crossed the Red Sea and sailed along the African coast down south to Zanzibar. It was a long and tough journey especially when we had no wind but we used to enjoy it so much,” he said.

Dhows, which have one or two masts supporting triangular sails, are built from the keel up with teak imported from India. In the past, wooden planks were sewn togeth­er without nails or glue. Now they are laid side by side and secured with long nails.

More traditionally, coconut-fibre rope was threaded through holes in the teak and the holes were plugged with fibre or cotton soaked in sesame, fish or coconut oil.

The keel and hull are made from teak but the ribs of the dhow, which are added after the hull has been completed, are usually from locally grown timber.

Builders use modern saws and electric drills but the yard still contains awls, bows and caulking irons, the same tools that would have been used when Marco Polo sailed past 700 years ago.

Although it no longer retains its prominence in the trade industry, Sur continues to be the best in building the wooden ships, at least in the Gulf region. A couple of cen­turies back, the town built ships for clients in China, India, Iraq and other prominent trade destina­tions.

One remnant of the bygone era in the vicinity of the dhow yard is the lighthouse built by the Portu­guese during the 16th century to guide the bustling sea traffic that went in and out of Sur during those days.

Full Day East & West Salalah City Tour

The excursion begins in the morning with a visit to the old fishing village of ‘Taqah’, famous for the manufacture of
‘Dried Sardines’ & its traditional & old ‘Dhofari Houses’. Visit the century old ‘Taqah Castle’, the former official
residence of the ‘Wali’ (Governor) of the region & obtain a glimpse into the rich history of the region.

Continue onto the ancient ruins of the once famous city of Sumharam (Khor
Rohri). The city was the easternmost outpost of the Hadramawt Kingdom on
the ancient incense route between the Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf and
India. Khor Rori was an important port on the coast of Dhofar, and one of the
major trading cities with frankincense, believed to have been the hub &
harbour for the shipping of Frankincense (UNESCO World Heritage site).
On the way back to western Salalah, explore the ‘ever green Wadi Darbat’ for a relaxing stroll along the Wadi bed,
surrounded by herds of Camels, Goats & Cattle. In the Khareef season (monsoon period), one could also witness an
almost 100m natural Waterfall, spreading its ‘tentacles’ into numerous lakes & lush green Vegetation. Thereafter
proceed to ‘Qara’ mountains to explore the western part of Salalah. On a road

steadily winding up a steep incline, herds of Camels & Cattle are a common
sight which gives a scenic view of a traditional Dhofari rural beauty. Visit the
ancient tomb of ‘Prophet Job’ situated in the scenic green mountains of the
Salalah Plains.
Proceed to the beach of Mughsail where the white sand touches the deep blue
of the ocean & at high tide, where waves burst through the natural titanic
‘Blow Holes’, at the far end of the ‘Rocky beach’ with a cave-like entrance.
Continue along the ‘Hair-pin-bend’ road towards Western Border of Oman, with its breathtaking cliffs on either side, to
see the historical ‘Frankincense trees’ growing in their natural habitat, deep down in the valleys, dotting the dry &
craggy countryside. Take a short walk into the valleys to smell the ‘Holy Incense’ amidst the scenic view of the region.
Return to the Salalah hotel. Overnight stay at the hotel. (B)

Half Day Muscat City Tour

The tour begins with a visit to the beautiful Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque one of the largest mosques in the Middle East. Later you visit Bait Al Zubair Museum. You will have photo stops at the residence of his Majesty Sultan Qaboos, the Al Alam Palace, which is flanked by the 16th century Portuguese forts Mirani and Jalali. Evening you will be strolling through Muttrah Souq, where you will be bargaining for handicrafts and silver items.

Jabel Shams | Bilad Siyt | Snake Canyon | Wadi Bani Auf | Nakhal Fort | Muscat Airport

Around 8.30 am you will be met by your tour guide and driver who will escort you to the comforts of our 4 wheel drive to embark on a soft adventurous trip Your first stop at the quaint mountain village of Bilad Sayt framed by the dramatic mountains. We then drive through the spectacular Wadi Bani Auf . This stretch of graded road is very

adventurous & for the physically fit only as it involves steep bends and bumpy roads. The journey continues to Nakhal and its 17th Century Fort built on the peak of a mountain. Nakhal Fort is one of the most spectacular forts, dramatically located at the edge of the Jebel Akhdar Mountains in northwest Oman. It is surrounded by a beautiful oasis. There is an area with healing warm

springs, the most notable being Ayn A’ Thowarah. Its waters run at 45°C and are regarded as a cure for rheumatism and skin diseases due to its sulfur content. The stunning landscape will enchant you before heading down the mountain to return to Muscat international airport.

Mifat Al Abrayeen | Al Hamra | Bait Sifah Museum | Misfat AL Arbayee | Wadi Nakhar | Jabel Shams

After breakfast your tour will proceed towards Al Hamrah. Al Hamra & Misfah to see one of the oldest villages of this region. The traditional mud houses dated back from 400 years are still occupied. The falaj system used in this village one of the oldest of this kind (UNESCO site). Travel to Jebel Shams but before going up the mountain there is an interesting wadi, Wadi Nakhr, a narrow canyon. It is a stunning beautiful place, and is geologically spectacular, being one of the deepest canyons on the planet. Go deep inside to visit the village where the main activity is weaving ….. Your journey then continues to

the top of Jebel Shams, “Sun Mountain”, Oman’s highest peak, 3009 m. ….. get
a spectacular view of the “Grand Canyon”.

Muscat | Wadi Arbyeen | Bimmah Sink Hole | Wadi Shab | Ras Al Hadd

You drive further to Wadi Arbaeen, en route you see lush village surrounded with dates, lemon, mango plantations. You will have photo stop at each place. You finally will reach Wadi Arbaeen – an oasis spot in the middle of the barren and dry mountains. It is one of the most beautiful wadis and its pools with clear deep blue water give you an opportunity to take a refreshing dip. On the coastal road you stop at the limestone Sinkhole in Bimah and then continue to Fins. You will then stop at Wadi Shab which means a “wadi between the cliffs”, enjoy a walk through the wadi, walking shoes are strongly recommended. Going up the wadi you will soon see pools appearing before you and you may

also enjoy a refreshing swim in those pools. Early we will arrive to Ras al Hadd to relax on beach and dinner around 6:30 pm and proceed for watching turtles in Ras al jinz.

The turtles come to lay their eggs at night and this experience is a memorable one.

Muscat Departure | Arrival To Salalah Airport | Transfer To Hotel

Transfer from hotel to airport for final departure.

You will arrive at the Salalah international airport. Upon your arrival you proceed
straight to the immigration. Immigration & customs are quick & simple. Upon
arrival at the general arrival lounge you will be met by our friendly & efficient
Smart Travel & Tourism chauffer who will assist you to the comforts of our vehicle
to drive you the hotel. Overnight in Salalah Hotel.

Nizwa | Jabel Shams | Nizwa

Morning visit the powerful Fort with its massive Circular Cannon Tower, one
of the most impressive forts in Oman and the traditional Souq. Al Hamra
and Misfah to see one of the oldest villages of this region. The traditional
mud houses dated back from 400 years are still occupied. The falaj system
used in this village one of the oldest of this kind (UNESCO site). Thereafter
drive to visit Wadi Gul & Wadi Nakhar the remote villages exactly at the
drop point of great canyon. Then proceed to Jabel Shams, one of the
highest peak of Jabel Akdhar mountain range and is popularly known as the
Great canyon of Oman. Picnic lunch will be served at suitable place.

Nizwa | Jabreen Castal | Bahal Fort & Osis | Jabel Shams | Nizwa

Your tour start to visit Nizwa, which was once the capital of Oman, go through the traditional and craft Souk where you can buy some souvenirs before visiting the Fort of Nizwa with its large circular tower and imagine life inside the Fort in the 17th century. The breathtaking view from the tower will show you how big the plantation is….

After the long drive your next stop will be Continue to Jabrin, for a visit of the Fort which was once the home of the Imam and was built to be a Palace at first, before being used for military purposes. The tomb of the Imam is still located in

the Fort. The Jabrin Fort is also believed to be one of the first schools in Oman. Later proceed to Bahla, a charming little town surrounded by an old 12 km long wall; visit the place where they make pottery and also the old fort of Bahla, one of the oldest in Oman (under renovation, visit is from the outside only).

Travel to Jebel Shams but before going up the mountain there is an interesting wadi, Wadi Nakhr, a narrow canyon. It is a stunning beautiful place, and is geologically spectacular, being one of the deepest canyons on the planet. Go deep inside to visit the village where the main activity is weaving ….. Your journey then continues to the top of Jebel Shams,

“Sun Mountain”, Oman’s highest peak, 3009 m. ….. get a spectacular view of the “Grand Canyon”.

Nizwa | Wahiba

Morning drive to Wahiba sands, via Birkat A Mauz and Ibra. Wahiba sands,
a vast mass of undulating red and white sea of sand. The ever-changing
patterns of the dunes are a photographer’s delight. After some exciting
sand dune driving which offers excellent thrills and chills for all. Evening
watch spectacular sunset from top of the dunes. BBQ dinner and over night
at desert camp.

Nizwa Fort & Souq | Muscat Amouage Perfume Factory | Muscat Hotel

Morning visit the powerful Fort with its massive Circular Cannon Tower, one of the most impressive forts in Oman and the traditional Souq. Our next point of interest, and the highlight of the tour, is the visit to the Perfume factory «Amouage». Founded over a quarter of a century ago, Amouage is a niche luxury fragrance house that draws inspiration from its birthplace of the Sultanate of Oman, infusing reference points from a rich and colourful heritage that fires the imagination of all who come into contact with its wonderful products. Learn, taste and enjoy the ancient Arabian oil perfumes’ imagination.

Ras Al Hadd | Sur Dhow Factory | Wadi Bani Khalid | Wahiba Desert

Around 8.30 am you will be met by your tour guide and driver who will escort you to the comforts of our 4 wheel drive to embark on a soft adventurous trip to the great desert of Oman. Your tour will going to start morning 9:00 am. Once you will be in Sur, our guide take you another town famous for its trading and Dhow Building Yard in Sur where boat building is more than just a task, but a way of culture, tradition, and life. Sur still offers a glimpse of those brandishing awls, bows,

hammers and iron nails in the pursuit of perfecting the ancient craft which helped Oman establish itself as one of the oldest and most influential sultanates in the Gulf region. Though largely less commonplace than in centuries prior,

dhow-building is still very much alive and well in Sur, and has become not only an attraction for tourists, but also for the likes of the ultra-wealthy who are keen to get their hands on some of the most storied hand-crafted ships in the world.

You will drive through small villages and towns before arriving at Wadi Bani Khalid driving through the mountain offering a panoramic view of the beautiful landscape below. You will pass many pretty villages embedded in the mountains. Here the road winds down to the wadi alongside a large, shallow pool fringed with vegetation & ends at a village. We park our vehicles at this point & continue on a short trek to the deep blue pools of the wadi. If you wish you may enjoy a swim in this glorious grace of nature. It is recommended to wear comfortable clothes & walking shoes for this trip.

Continue drive to the great desert of Oman Known as the “Wahiba Sands”. Soon you will come face to face with the enormous desert and our experienced drivers drive you through the sand dunes to give you a thrill of dune driving. After having enjoyed the drives over the lovely dunes you could perhaps meet the Bedouin family to know more about their life style in the desert. Thereafter you will bid goodbye to the inhabitants of the desert to drive to reach the campsite

Salalah Half Day City Tour

Morning after breakfast. Visit the Al Baleed museum of the Frankincense land.
Opened in July 2007 at Al Balid Archaeological Park it is a large archaeological
site that you can stoll through among Salalah Tours when you visit oman , and the
museum hosts an impressive collection about the archaeological and maritime
history of Oman . (Open Sat – Wed 8:00 -14:00 & 16:00 – 20:00, Thu – Fri 16:00 –
20:00) .In the Heritage Souk, you can find different types of Omani crafts and
incense burners. You will have an exact view of the Arabian market after visiting
the new souk. Drive to the Gold souk offers modern and olden style Dhofari ornaments. Haffah souk is very attractive
with its small shops lined up with straight piles of incense boxes, clay incense burners colourfully decorated with

traditional patterns and bags of incense crystals. Also on your way to haffah Souk you can see some typical Dhofari
houses with caravan windows and doors. Walking past the Sultan Residential palace Al Husn, reaches to the Old Souk
where Frankincense, Dhofari traditional clothes and cosmetics are available. Before returning to the hotel, visit the

ancient city of Zufar, the ruins of Al Balid, which was visited by Ibn Batuta and Marco Polo, describing it as a beautiful,
large and noble city. Overnight in Salalah Hotel.

Sur | Quirat | Qalhat | Muscat

Visit the fish jetty and dhow factory . Visit the Sineslah Fort. The ruins of Bibi
Miriam's Tomb can be seen at the village of Qalhat on coastal road to
Muscat. Stop at Fins beach. Our next stop is the Bimah Sinkhole, a
spectacular limestone crater with blue green water at the bottom. On clear
sunny days while driving along the coast one might chance to see sharks in
the deep blue water or fleet footed Gazelle sprint across the

landscape.Proceed to Wadi Arbayeen which has refreshing deep pools of
water set among the date palms. Before returning to Muscat via Quriyat

Wahiba | Sinaw | Birkat Al Moze | Nizwa

After breakfast, you will leave behind you this beautiful desert and continue your journey to Traditional village Sinaw. Continue tour proceed toward Foot of Jabel Akhdar and you will stop on the way to see the old village of Birkat Al Mawz, walking through the plantation and small streets with old crumbling houses.

Wahiba | Sur

Your first destination is Wadi Bani Khalid – an oasis spot in the middle of the
barren and dry mountains. It is one of the most beautiful wadis in Oman and
its pools with clear deep blue water give you an opportunity to take a
refreshing dip. Enjoy the ambiance of the Wadi. Then drive to you visit Sur,
renowned for its dhow shipyard in former times. After an early dinner you
will visit the turtle sanctuary at Ras Al Jinz, where at night the Green Turtles,
after a journey of thousands of kilometers will come ashore to lay their eggs.