Cruise Ports

Cruise port focus: Sur, Oman

Sur is a small town on the eastern promontory of Oman on the Indian Ocean, it used to be a major trading port and is home to historical sites and nearby attractions such as beautiful wadis.

Sur-Oman-forts

The twin forts guard the bay in Sur, Oman. (Image courtesy Audley Travel)

Key facts:

Cruise terminal: There isn’t one, ships anchor offshore and passengers tender ashore

Shore excursions: Shore excursions in Sur are limited, but worthwhile for a half-day

Language: Arabic, with English spoken by some locals

Dress code: Shoulders and legs should be covered

Currency: The Omani rial

Once a central trading port for East Africa and India, Sur also has a rich history in traditional wooden boat building.

There is a fantastic boat museum and a dhow workshop near the suspension bridge in Al Ayga. In this part of Oman, the traditional Arabic vessel, the dhow, is called safeena, which just means ship in Arabic.

Sur became a bit of a white elephant after the Suez Canal was opened in the latter half of the 19th century, losing its prominence as a trading port.

Sur-Oman-bay

While it lost its bustling port community and regional importance, the city has nevertheless retained its scenic dunes and crystal waters.

Sur’s most recognisable monument today is a remnant from the Christian crusades in the Middle East.

The Ras al Haad castle is a gem of Islamic architecture built in the 13th century to protect locals from Christian attacks. It now serves as a regional political centre.

Sur-Oman

The Ras al Haad castle overlooks the town.

There are also three forts that are worth a visit. Bilad, Sinaysla, and Al Ayja. Only Sinaysla is regularly open on weekdays. If the “natour” (guardian) isn’t at the gate, you can stroll onto into the castle itself and he’ll see you eventually and sell you tickets.

Although a wonderful historic site, there isn’t much in the way of signage or plaques to give context to the building’s history.

There is also beautiful natural landscapes to be found in and around Sur. The most impressive is Wadi Shab, a natural river next to the Wadi Tiwi hamlet 40 kilometres outside Sur.

Sur-Oman-Wadi-shab

Wadi Shab, just outside Sur.

Wadi Tiwi is a long wadi, with spectacular geography and is great for swimming, but waterproof shoes or sandals should be worn as the rocks are sharp.

If you’re exploring independently, there are boats that can take you across the initial very deep part of the wadi, but they leave after sunset, so make your way back in time or you’ll have to swim across.

After sunset in Sur, if you ship stays long enough, you can enjoy a coffee and shisha at one of the many cafes that line the waterfront.

It’s a great way to tap into the local culture and way of life as you listen to old men singing sea shanties under the trees outside and watch dhows drifting into the lagoon.

The cruise terminal in Sur

There isn’t one. There’s no port either, just a small fishing harbour that’s too small for even the world’s smallest cruise ships.

Silversea is the only line with a scheduled port call for 2019 and she will anchor offshore and tender passengers ashore.

Is Sur good for shopping?

Not really, there is a souq in the town but it has no real atmosphere or charm and is filled with tons of Chinese made technology and Indian made Omani hangars (daggers).

Currency and language in Sur

The currency in Sur is the Omani rial and the language is Arabic.

Some locals will speak a smattering of English, but unless you’re comfortable with independent exploring in deeply foreign lands, stick to organised tours through the ship.

How to behave in Sur

Sur is not liberal in anyway shape or form, it’s a remote fishing village with very traditional Muslim values.

Women who dress with shoulders and knees showing will likely be subject to disapproving looks from locals, and while drinking alcohol or being drunk in public is illegal, you won’t have much opportunity for either as there is just one bar in town (Captain’s Lounge at the Sur Plaza Hotel).

It’s an oddly colonial place where the handful of western expats in the town tend to congregate.

Who cruises to Sur?

Currenty, Silversea is the only cruise line with a scheduled port call to Sur in Oman.

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