One thing no expatriate will fail to notice when visiting Oman is the exceptionally fast pace of infrastructure development here, especially the roads. This is due both to the fact that the country is still enjoying a phase of rapid modernization — bringing it from a 1970 low of having only 12-km of paved roads to today’s Starbucks-infiltrated, modern-highway, sprawling urban landscape — and also because tropical cyclones Gonu and Phet have wreaked major havoc, major destruction on the roads and sewers and drainage systems in two of the three last years.
Having just avoided, through grace or serendipity, another cyclone, it is worth reflecting on the state of this infrastructure development and some of the peculiarities of the roadwork it has created.
First, you cannot drive more than a mile or two without encountering a major highway construction project.
Second, where you do enjoy a constructionless bit of travel, you’ll certainly encounter a hodge-podge of British, American, and Arabic road engineering. New highways resemble American Eisenhower-era roads, with gradually sloping overpasses and underpasses merging onto three and four lane expressways. Older highways often have round-abouts, sometimes two- and three-lane roundabouts, thanks to British systems. And even older roads, where curb and gutter or on- and off-ramps may not exist at all, lead to the inevitable pulling-on and pulling-off from bare desert to road, no system at all for merging other than a nerve-wracking game of ‘chicken’.
These engineering marvels (marvels because of the rapidity at which they have sprouted!) are tough to capture on camera. However, one particular roadway shenanigan of which I do have a photo, thanks to Mindy and Mike Scheer, our neighbors in Muscat, is the “Irish Crossing.”
This is called the “Irish Crossing” because, I guess, it is also used in Ireland. The idea is to save a few bucks, to provide a crossing for an intermittent watercourse without building a full bridge. However, it is wise to note that these watercourses, when full, will definitely cut all cross-wadi travel, rendering the highways impassable. I imagine, though now frequently seen, especially on the route from Muscat to Sohar, these money-saving road constructions will be phased out (or washed out!) in the near future.
When the rains do come these crossings will be areas flooded with Not Quite Right.