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Published: December 14th 2014
Entrance to the Jebel Shams Resort
Yes, we were greeted by a very woolly yet nonchalant mountain goat. Our first of many.
Last weekend, we visited Jebel Shams in Oman. Jebel means mountain in Arabic, so basically we visited a large mountain called Shams! I also happen to have a dear friend called Shams from dental school, so the name was particularly amusing for me.
I was uber unprepared for this trip. For starters, I had just gotten back from a trip to Goa, India the previous weekend and had a week full of work ahead of me before embarking on this particular trip. During that week, I had so many deadlines to catch up on that I was barely aware of what region we were visiting, and this is rare for me. I'm usually the most detailed traveler.
The trip to Jebel Shams happened because of my mom's kitty group. Her kitty group usually takes turns hosting dinner/lunch parties once every month. One of the members decided to organize an all night trip to Jebel Shams and with the dates & meetings scheduled and pushed around- everyone got on board and off we were to visit the highest mountain in Oman!
We set off early on Friday morning- around 5:50 AM from our houses in Dubai and agreed to
On our way to Jebel Shams
I can count 7 distinct colors in this picture. How many can you?
meet up at Dubai Outlet Mall by 6:30 AM to coordinate the rest of the travel. Travel time from Dubai to Jebel Shams is roughly 7 hours but with the border check points, breakfast stop, bathroom breaks and basically getting lost on the roads took us a total of 9 hours, just in time for lunch at the Jebel Shams Resort.
The Travel: Dubai-> Al Ain- Dank (breakfast stop took half an hour/we took our own breakfast- Indian parathas, yoghurt and spicy pickle. We got masala chai and coffee from a nearby restaurant)-> Oman border (passport, visa checking took a total of 45 mins)-> Ibri (tea/bathroom break- 15 minutes)-> Jebel Shams (reached by 2:45 PM).
The travel to Jebel Shams is gorgeous. The landscape and terrain is something unlike I have ever seen. It closely parallels what I saw in Ladakh, India a year ago but still not quite the same. There is flat land with bits of shrubs on one side and high mountains on the other. The roads are very strong and tough. We were in 4 wheeled vehicles but did not put the car in 4 wheel drive even once (the roads were that good).
The famous Omani Canyons
Canyons left by decades of ridging by water bodies. Now there is only desert for miles together.
There is a bit of a rough patch (about 7 kms) in the mountains very close to our resort. It was however, bearable.
Our resort is situated on top of the Jebel with breath taking views of the canyons, the mountains and the clear sky! On reaching the resort, a few of us checked into chalets and the rest into tents. The tents were pretty cute and so were the chalets. I was all in all quite impressed with our Omani resort. Lunch consisted of arabic salads: fattoush, tabouleh (my favourite), fish and dates. There was also Arabic Kava for afters. After our lunch we embarked on the most awaited bit of the trip- THE TREK!
Now let me tell you about my obsession with trekking- in simple words- I love it! It started in school when my parents sent me for my first trek to the Himalayas with my friends from school. Since then, I’ve always loved the idea of sweating it out while laughing and chatting with fellow trekkers. Trekking combines fun with exercise (rare!). While walking at an upward incline of nearly 10, you are enjoying scenic views all around you. This is exactly what
happened at our trek at Jebel Shams. We hiked up till the top of the mountain and reached a particular spot we decided to call ‘Romeo Spot’ where all the couples took pictures. We also met a couple of mountain goats along the way and posed for pictures behind those woolly things. While eating crackers, we watched the sunset ahead of us and then trekked back to our resort. We also waved hellos to the local Omani children playing nearby.
I really believe that the true Middle Eastern experience can be sought out in its villages. If you want to know how these people have started their lives in the middle of the mountains and managed to grow date tress and palm trees in what seems like an endless sea of rocks and sand, Jebel Shams is the place for you. Its beauty lies in its people and the rough terrain they have managed to make their home will never fail to amaze.
After having trekked for a total of 2 hours, we reached the resort only to find it very chilly. I was already wearing my thermals under my clothes with a sweater on top. I ran
to the chalet to find my scarf to wrap around my necks and ears, but I was still chilly. We then decided to light a bonfire outside our chalet to start warming ourselves, while one of the uncles decided to start a Zulu dance around the bonfire (it was supposed to be a joke). Equipped with hot chocolate, coffee and tea we sat around our bonfire, singing songs, sharing jokes and gossiping about politics in the country. We then had a quick dinner (I had salads and hot coffee) and went back to sleep. I stayed up a bit to read Garcia Marquez’ One hundred years of Solitude and then fell asleep dreaming about Colonel Aureliano Buendia.
The next morning, we left soon after breakfast and subsequent check-out for Misfat Al Abriyeen. It is a unique mountainous Omani village located about a 1000m above sea level. The main source of livelihood for the people of this Misfat comes from its agriculture. We were privy to some beautiful plantations (pomegranate, bananas, limes, dates and of course palms) grown in the midst of mountains and houses made up of solid rocks. The Misfat also has an intricate falaj (water) system running throughout the course of the plantations watering all. We spent a couple of hours exploring the entire Misfat and were soon on our way back to Ibri.
Around 2 PM, we were at Ibri for lunch and 5 PM at the Oman border. We stopped for tea after crossing the border, bid our goodbyes to each other and were on our individual routes back home in Dubai. We reached home by 9 PM.
Pointers for an overnight at Jebel Shams:
1) Great for Campers. There are plenty of flat plateaus for holding up tents, within the Al Hamra mountain range. Come with suitable camping gear, sleeping bags and lots of warm clothes!
2) Come with food and drinks. The trip to Jebel Shams from Muscat or Dubai, even though fairly touristy is long and bound to cause mistakes on roads. You might not reach your designated restaurant in time for lunch/ breakfast/dinner. 2-5 PM is siesta time in villages so you will be stuck without food, if you do not carry enough provisions with yourself. My suggestion- carry snacks and light food! And plan for meals by the roadside in your car.
3) Loads of warm clothes. Temperatures can run down to -5 degree Celsius in November, December.
4) Carry scopolamine for those of you who get sick while traveling. Driving up mountains always tests one’s immunity so better to stay prepared! Lots of twisty roads.
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