What I had in mind when setting off for a five day trip to Oman a few year ago , was a vacation of nothing more than relax, rest and luxury.
I planned on lounging on this fabulous, secluded, private beach of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Muscat, swimming in the crystalline waters of the Golf of Oman, enjoying the sights and sounds of Ramadan in a deeply religious Muslim country and living the Arabian drea
August in Oman with temperatures in the 100s, surrounded by my beloved Middle eastern culture seemed just the thing to get back on my feet. Mind you, I did all the above, but, you know how it is. If the prospect of adventure comes calling, all ‘good’ intentions of doing nothing fly out the window. A true traveler suddenly feels no pain anymore, he/she just can’t resist the temptation. Idly leafing through the brochures at reception, I came upon this trip and I quote: “..proceed to Wadi Gul (village of abandoned houses) and other remains. Al Hamara- an old oasis then proceed off road to Jabel Shams (mountain of the sun), the tallest peak in Oman, towering to 3009m with spectacular scenery as you climb through winding mountain roads”.
Abandoned houses, off road travel, mountain peaks and spectacular views???? YESSSS! Who needs a beach if they can see that?. This time I was traveling not on my own but with a friend who has the same interests and curiosity as I have and who can’t resist an enticing trip either. As it was Ramadan, there were very few guests in the hotel or visitors in general which meant that we had the brand new 4X4 and charming driver all to ourselves.
Our trip took us first to the formidable castle of Nizwa which was Oman’s first capital and then onwards and upwards into the mountains, all in all about 200km southwest of Muscat in the country proper.
Oman’s mountains are something to behold, steep, surprisingly green, cut through with wadis, sprinkled with oasis where the famous date palms grow and multi colored stone. Marble in sheer white and pink alternate with black granite. As we climbed, we reached the abandoned houses of Wadi Gul, glued to the mountain side, some still inhabited, but the majority turned into a ghost town.
The higher we climbed, the more the temperature dropped and when we came to the turn off towards Jabel Shams, some seriously dark clouds were gathering overhead. Rain, in Oman? Certainly not? Certainly yes!! Whilst we were still looking down into the dry wadis, the heavens started to open and a downpour a dramatic proportions filled them with water within minutes. We were glad to be in a 4X4, because suddenly the track was flooded, water splashed as high as the roof of the car and when we reached th summit, we could ahrly open the door because the wind was so strong and the rain was lashing our clothes. Within seconds we were soaked through, but it didn’t matter at all, because what awaited was a the view down a canyon and gorge which left our head spinning.
Clinging with one hand to a rickety steel rope which was the only protection from a fall of about a 1000m and certain death, we laughed from the sheer exhilaration and the thrill of danger, taking pictures with the other hand.
There is a resort around Jabel Shams where you can live in an Arab tent or rent a room and indulge in all sort of mountains sports. It’s called Living Adventure and if you are the hiking and climbing type it’s certainly an experience worth considering. Not to my interest though, I was quite happy to teeter on the edge as it was and then climb back into our car and return to the wonders of Muscat and the comforts of the Crowne Plaza.