Duqm is undergoing a major transformation. The sleepy little fishing village is set to become a major hub for shipping and industry in the next few decades. There are plans to build a city that can accommodate more than 50,000 people, quite a change from the current population of 4,500.
Currently it has a port and dry docks, a couple of new residential complexes, and a few hotels, and big visions for much, much more, including an airport, free trade zone, factories, shopping malls, parks, school, a public transit system and other developments to make it an attractive, sustainable, bustling 21st century city. Duqm may not yet have the modern attractions to keep visitors entertained, but in the meantime it is a peaceful getaway with a few places worthwhile visiting, such as its strange rock garden, fishing villages and beautiful beaches.
The most fascinating place in Duqm is the 'Rock Garden', a three square kilometre area filled with oddly-shaped sandstone and limestone formations. Formed approximated 46 million years ago in a freshwater aquifer, the rocks have been affected by wind, rain, heat and frost. The Rock Garden is a wonderful example of Oman's geological wonders, and it's a place where a creative mind will find many creatures hidden in the shapes, such as a turtle, mushroom, fish, many faces, and even an ET lookalike.
While the port, dry docks and economic free trade zone will soon bring a variety of new jobs to Duqm, traditionally the little town's economy has been based on fishing. The coast is still home to a few bustling fishing villages, where the fishermen are happy to chat and pose for photos.
Many of the fishermen are local, but others are Bedouin who come from Al Sharqiyah Governorate to supplement their incomes by fishing for part of the year. It's neat to see the fishing boats being pushed out to sea by old Toyota trucks, to watch the fresh catches being packed with ice and loaded onto trucks to be taken away to markets, and look up in awe at the thousands of birds circling overhead.
For a relaxing place to stay, the recently opened Duqm Crowne Plaza is ideal. With exceedingly comfortable beds, tennis courts and a lovely pool, it's a great spot to stay. But what makes really special is its location, on a stunning stretch of beach. A walk on the sand as the sun sinks below the rocky landscape nearby and the moon rises over the ocean is unforgettable. The soft pinks and purples from the sky reflect on the damp sand and birds settle here and there picking at the snails, crabs and other creatures that inhabit the shore. Far from the noise of traffic and void of the football games found on so many Omani beaches, this is an oasis of calm and beauty.
The future of Duqm is destined to be grand, but why wait for the developments before paying it a visit? With its natural splendours and local culture, Duqm is worth discovering today.
How to get there?
• By plane
Oman Air has flights
on Sundays, Tuesdays
• By car
It's about 500km
or a 5-hour drive.
Where to stay?
• Crowne Plaza Duqm
• City Hotel Duqm