26-Nov-2002 -- We spent three weeks in November/December 2002 (straddling the Islamic Ramaḍān/`Īdu-l-Fiṭr holidays) travelling in Oman. The furthest our circuit took us from our home in Riyāḍ, Saudi Arabia, was the southern city of Ṣalāla, where we visited our first urban confluence point at 17N 54E. On the way south we visited 21N 57E, 20N 56E, and 18N 54E; and on the way to the east coast of Oman (on our return) we visited 18N 55E, 18N 56E and 19N 57E. In all we motored 8,300 km.
The day after 20N 56E
we made our way to Šisur, believed to be the site of Ubar (a city on one ancient frankincense trading route between the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula and, eventually, the Mediterranean). Having several times visited the oasis of Yabrīn in Saudi Arabia (also on the route, but north of the Empty Quarter crossing, whereas Šisur is at the southern end of the crossing) we were particularly interested to see this 2000+-year-old site identified by the archaeologist Professor Juris Zarins in 1992 on an expedition led by Ranulph Fiennes.
Having driven to the previous confluence point over rough ground, when we left it and took what seemed the easiest routes in the direction of the highway south we soon came across a new tarmac spur, not on our maps, which led us via a roundabout, complete with "Nodding Donkey" old oil well pump decoration, and back to the main road.
Then we headed south for another 300 km on the highway before spotting the signposted track to Šisur. In the event we didn't find the track as easy to pick up as the sign suggested, and it took us a few km of casting around before we settled into 70 km of the worst quality track we had yet encountered. This took us to the site of ancient Ubar. The archaeological site was deserted - presumably because of Ramaḍān - but had thoughtfully been left open so that visitors could explore it.
A good southeast track took us back to the highway but south of the confluence point we intended to visit. Being by now well into these visits we back tracked, and were rewarded by a smooth plain within sight of the road, with photogenic camel's tracks leading right through the zero point. Close by were hills ideal for camping.
Continued at 17N 54E.