Published: April 10th 2009April 10th 2009
Ready to leave
Not far from Dubai lies Oman, and in Dubai lives my sister with her family and for this reason I find myself writing about a little camping trip that she took me on. Six Arabian nights we spend under the moon of Oman, and in doing so I discovered what beauty is hidden away in the folds of the Hajar Mountains of this country. Now camping with a family is of course different than camping with friends, but my nephew Teagan of five and my niece Zara of three behaved very well considering the amount of driving and hiking they were put through. Of course there was the usual fighting, bickering and crying, but on the whole I can say that they kept themselves very good and I think they enjoyed it as much as the grown ups. As an uncle I have easy talking of course, my sister and her husband were the ones who had to make sure everything went smoothly and again I can only give compliments. So enough sucking up to my sister, now for the hidden gems that we encountered on this trip.
When one thinks of Oman or any of the countries out here,
Outside Al Buraymi
Lunch stop, just on the other side of the border in Oman
one thinks desert! But it is not so, the mountains are criss-crossed by crevices and canyons, which in turn are formed by rivers and creeks, which they call wadis around here. Many of the wadis don't have water year round, but as it happened it had been raining the week before I arrived and so there was water. Not just water, but emerald green or turquoise blue waters, crystal clear pools, mountain streams, little waterfalls, and natural waterslides and all this surrounded by the pink flowers of blossoming oleanders or the swaying palm leaves of date trees. The mountains themselves are dry as bones, with magnificent red, orange, browns, yellows, greys and blacks in which the blue waters and the green trees come out in stark contrast. Than there are the many crumbling ruins of ancient watchtowers, the traditional villages, the irrigation channels that cut through the rocks and somehow complement it all and the towns with their restored forts and newly built houses. But the thing about Oman is that it seems to cherish its heritage much more than the other Gulf States I have visited. There is little high-rise, the new houses are tastefully built in the traditional
style, forts have been restored, the mosques have colourful blue or green domes and minarets, giving that extra piece of colour that is required in the desert, and the people are ever so friendly.
Our first night we spend under the stars and the waxing moon close to Wadi Damm. A braai was prepared (my brother in law is S. African, and they call barbeques, braai), food was served and the kids were put to bed. Not much later another car appeared and two Germans joined us! There you think you are out in the middle of nowhere and two other bloody tourists appear! What are the chances? Anyway not to worry, the next day they headed off back to Dubai and we went to explore the wadi. And it was well worth exploring, with lots of waterfalls and pools, surrounded by the steep and jagged sides of the canyon. The best was reserved for last, as is often the case and so we stumbled upon a pool, with a curtain of water falling from a ledge overhung by maidenhair. I am making this all sound more adventurous than it in actual fact was, because we knew that this
Beehive tombs of Al Ayn with Jabal Misht in the background
pool was at the end of the wadi thanks to this great Oman off-road guide. Still, it only tells you how to find it, the actual hike up the wadi has to still be done by those who wish to see it. And those who do decide to hike up this far are rewarded by this natural wonder in which one can take a refreshing dip and enjoy a shower under the curtain of water falling from above.
After a couple of hours spent frolicking in the cool waters, it was time to head out to the next destination, Jabal Shams, which is the highest peak in Oman and also happens to be close to Wadi an Nakhur which is called Oman's 'Grand Canyon'. We found ourselves a spot with views of the canyon and the peak; unfortunately, these great views came with one big drawback, which we only found out late at night as the wind picked up. As I was about to fall asleep, I felt something smothering me; opening my eyes I noticed it was the side of my tent, which had come down as low as my face due to some extraordinary hard gusts. I
decided to have a look outside and check if all the pegs were still securely fastened, which they were. But with the wind getting stronger I realised it would be impossible for me to sleep in the tent, as the wind was flattening it. And so I ventured to the much larger tent of my sister, occupied by herself, her husband and their two children. Luck would have it that it was a five-man tent, so I managed to squeeze in my overly large, borrowed, air-mattress and of course myself. Two hours later we were all in the car, as their tent was caving in as well. As you can imagine we all had a lovely sleep cooped up in the car with the howling wind around us, and watching both tents being flattened. As dawn broke, we broke up the tents, inspected the damage, which was minor and made our way down again. At that point we were quite a miserable bunch. A dip in another wadi improved our spirits somewhat only to be dampened yet again during the day due to some of the sights we wanted to see being closed and our next camping spot being impossible
My sister, Teagan and Zara at night
to reach because of flooding. As night approached all was redeemed; we found a nice camping spot in yet another wadi, some good food and for some of us a good nights rest. I say some of us because during the course of the night I discovered that my air-mattress was leaking and so I ended up spending another uncomfortable night waiting for dawn to approach and getting my hands on the pump that was in my sisters tent (I could have woken up my sister during the night and possibly more of the family members in the process but I thought that one person having a second bad night was more than enough).
Another wadi, meant more treasures to be found. Wadi al Muaydin is only touched upon in the off-road book, but it has some wonderful aquamarine pools as well and I would rate it as high as Wadi Damm. From our little camping spot we went up into the hills as well, though we opted not to camp another night up on the high grounds, preferring to remain in Wadi al Muaydin for another night. But as said, we did make a little trip up to
Craig at the braai
the Sayq Plateau for some good views, interesting villages and cool mountain air.
By now our trip was coming to an end and so the return journey was started, heading from the Hajar Mountains to the coast, stopping off for lunch at Fanja, with its many watch towers and crumbling ruins. Our last night under the stars and under a very full moon, was in Wadi Hawasinah, which didn't have any water but was a beautiful spot nonetheless. The mosquito's thought it was a beautiful spot as well; and while I have always thought mosquito's needed still water to breed in, I think I have been proven wrong in this instance. Because the only water I could detect was in a nearby falaj (the Omani word for an irrigation channel) and it was moving rapidly.
And so ended our Arabian nights, and we are back in Dubai, were I am looking forward to a restful night in a bed which doesn't need to be pumped up half way through. Tonight I shall dream of Oman, knowing that I shall return to discover more!
There are more photos below