New Oman-Saudi Arabia desert road opens, cutting 16 hours of driving time

The new road promises to boost trade and reinvigorate remote villages

A 725-kilometres long road from Oman to Saudi Arabia opened on Wednesday, marking “a new life of prosperity” for people living in the towns of the Empty Quarter.

Cars took to the road through a new border crossing in the north-west Dhahirah region of the sultanate, which authorities said was equipped to handle visitors, passports and tax clearance for trade goods.

State-owned Oman Television aired a programme on the opening of the road, which followed a visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Oman on Monday.

Said bin Hamood Al Mawali, Oman’s Minister of Transport, Communication and Information Technology, said the new road will benefit the growth of industry in the sultanate.

“The new road is a big boost for tourism, logistics, manufacturing and investments. It will also inject a new cash flow to companies from both sides and create employment for young people,” Mr Al Mawali, said in the Oman Television interview.

Hours before Prince Mohammed’s arrival in Muscat, Saudi and Omani officials signed 13 agreements that officials said would could bring a financial windfall to the sultanate with projects worth $10 billion – ranging from oil and gas to the maritime sector.

The new road stretches from Ibri in north-west Oman to the Ramlet Khelah border crossing and into Shaybah, Saudi Arabia.

It runs through the Empty Quarter, the largest sand desert in the world, and will cut the journey time between the countries by 16 hours.

The Empty Quarter spreads across Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The section of the 725km-long road in Oman is 161km, while a 564km section is in Saudi Arabia.

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Authorities said the road will improve ways for Oman to trade better with the rest of the world through Saudi Arabia's Red Sea ports, and for the kingdom through the Sea of Oman and the Arabian Sea.

The people who live in towns adjacent to the Empty Quarter said they are already prepared for the opening of the road to take advantage of less travelling time to Saudi Arabia.

“I am among the first travellers today to cross the new border. It is a historical day for me and the rest of the towns around this road," Khalfan Al Siyabi, 25, from Wadi Sharsah village, told The National.

"I am driving to Saudi Arabia and all the way to Makkah to perform the Umrah pilgrimage. I am not sure how long that will take but when I get back, I will tell everyone at my home town how it is like.”

The motorway was originally scheduled for completion in 2014, but was delayed because of technical and financial issues.

Updated: December 8th 2021, 5:40 PM