A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about road trip

A dramatic drive

Oman day seven


View Oman 2019 on ToonSarah's travel map.

Sunrise over Jebel Shams

large_7394ca60-4597-11e9-86dc-739d0defb9c4.jpg
Jebel Misht at sunrise

The extra blankets Said had secured for us meant that we were cosy in bed and slept well. Waking quite early I could see, through the crack I always leave in the curtains while travelling, that the sun was just touching the mountains opposite.

large_7286dcd0-4597-11e9-86dc-739d0defb9c4.jpg
View from our room at sunrise

I dressed quickly in the chilly room and went out with my camera to capture the scene.

large_73991020-4597-11e9-9c3d-c9ed810da4ee.jpg
large_74e34360-4597-11e9-9c3d-c9ed810da4ee.jpg
Jebel Shams sunrise


I learned later from Said that this first mountain to catch the sun as it rose is Jebel Misht, meaning Hairbrush Mountain!

large_75045ff0-4597-11e9-86dc-739d0defb9c4.jpg
Jebel Misht at sunrise


By the time that Chris, always slower to get going in the mornings, had joined me outside, the sun was just peeping over the mountains behind the hotel, but the ever-changing light meant that photography was still rather special for some minutes yet.

large_7256a510-4597-11e9-86dc-739d0defb9c4.jpg
Sun rising over the resort

74a4b3c0-4597-11e9-9c3d-c9ed810da4ee.jpg
View shortly after sunrise

large_75121b90-4597-11e9-b941-2b4dc714edcb.jpg
Jebel Shams mountain range just after sunrise

Breakfast was simple but more than adequate, with good fresh fruit, bread and jam (I could also have had processed cheese or honey) and reasonable instant coffee. Then we met up with Said, who never seemed to bother with breakfast, wanting only multiple cups of tea to start his day. And we set off on what was to be possibly the most stunning drive of this already amazing trip!

Back down the mountain

We stopped briefly at the Wadi Nakhal viewpoint, where we had been yesterday evening, to capture the scene in the different light of morning.

large_2eb62580-459a-11e9-9c3d-c9ed810da4ee.jpg
At the Wadi Nakhal view point

large_326598f0-459a-11e9-9c3d-c9ed810da4ee.jpg
Morning light at Wadi Nakhal

312bb960-459a-11e9-9c3d-c9ed810da4ee.jpg

30265750-459a-11e9-9c3d-c9ed810da4ee.jpg
At the Wadi Nakhal view point

IMG_20190313_134910.jpg
Our purchase

And we stopped even more briefly on our way down the mountain to purchase a woven key chain tassel from a young girl selling them by the roadside. Said bought one too, keen to support the local people in this small way.

The road down was as scenic as it had been coming up, but Said promised us that later today we would be on another road which many visitors had said was, along with the desert, their favourite drive of the tour. I couldn't wait!

317b38f0-459a-11e9-9c3d-c9ed810da4ee.jpg
Jebel Misht, from the road down from Jebel Shams
- it's easier to see in this shot how it got its name of Hairbrush Mountain

31f39d40-459a-11e9-9c3d-c9ed810da4ee.jpg

3273c9c0-459a-11e9-86dc-739d0defb9c4.jpg

From the road down from Jebel Shams

Misfat Al Abriyeen

We reached the main road and turned back towards Al Hamra, the ruined village we had visited yesterday, and Misfat Al Abriyeen, which was our first destination of this morning. This village derives its name from the Al Abri tribe who used to occupy this region of Oman.

On the way up to the village we passed a small group of camels grazing beside the road, two of them black. Black camels are common in the south of Oman but much less so here in the north.

0834d980-45b1-11e9-9a45-81f1ab5357c2.jpg
Black camel on the road to Misfat Al Abriyeen

We parked on the edge of Misfat, near some signs directed at visitors, requesting respectful behaviour and dress. So already we could see that this village, although still partly ruined, is ahead of Al Hamra in restoring its old buildings with a view, in part at least, to attracting tourism.

00965190-45b1-11e9-9a45-81f1ab5357c2.jpg069b26b0-45b1-11e9-8716-f94c80aafee4.jpg
Rules for visitors

Misfat lies in the foothills of the Hajar Mountains on the southern slope of Jebel Akhdar, about 1,000 feet above sea level. As with Al Hamra yesterday, we were reminded a little of the hill towns of Italy as we walked along its narrow lanes and caught glimpses of the countryside beyond. Agriculture is the basis of the economy here, and the steep hillsides are terraced and irrigated by the traditional falaj system.

large_077029f0-45b1-11e9-9a45-81f1ab5357c2.jpg
View from near the parking area

On the hill above the village is a crumbling watchtower, Fort Rogan. These dot the Omani landscape and while many have been restored by the government I found this semi-ruined one more photogenic. Local stories have it that it was built by a Persian general, Rogan Anu Sharwan, but there is no solid evidence for this.

076be430-45b1-11e9-b4db-bf093c819adc.jpg06ac64c0-45b1-11e9-9a45-81f1ab5357c2.jpg
Fort Rogan

We strolled through the village, taking photos of building details and (with permission) some of the people as we went.

05e0fe70-45b1-11e9-9a45-81f1ab5357c2.jpg08fbabf0-45b1-11e9-a915-d194773fc055.jpg
Village houses

014e08d0-45b1-11e9-9a45-81f1ab5357c2.jpg

0823c280-45b1-11e9-8716-f94c80aafee4.jpg

Some of the locals

The houses are built partly of stone, partly of adobe, and stand on solid rock foundations, hence the constant ‘up and downhill’ of the paths and the frequent need for stairs. Houses are squeezed together wherever space permitted in a haphazard fashion, many overhanging the lanes. Walking here you almost get the impression that you are in the houses, at times, and because many are still inhabited (unlike Al Hamra) I felt occasionally rather like an intruder and was glad that, following Said, I could be confident of being on a public path!

fed4a460-45b0-11e9-9a45-81f1ab5357c2.jpg05996e20-45b1-11e9-8716-f94c80aafee4.jpg
Walking through the village

One section of the village is off-limits to men, and as I was with Chris and Said I too kept away from this part.

077dbe80-45b1-11e9-8716-f94c80aafee4.jpg
Ladies only beyond this point


Some stone steps led down to the falaj or irrigation channel, which at this spot feeds a stone tank. Local boys were enjoying their weekend break from school by jumping and splashing in the water. I think they were getting as much enjoyment from the tourist attention they were attracting with their antics as they were from the water itself. Said assured me that it was fine to take photos, so I did.

08976be0-45b1-11e9-9a45-81f1ab5357c2.jpg

07c32bf0-45b1-11e9-8716-f94c80aafee4.jpg
Fun in the water tank ...

05821590-45b1-11e9-9a45-81f1ab5357c2.jpg
... and the audience!

I also turned my camera on their audience of smaller boys at a window above the tank, who performed for me by sticking out their tongues, waving water pistols and even spitting!

Everywhere we went in Oman we bumped into friends of Said’s, and here was no exception. In fact, one friend spotted his distinctive car drive into the village and we were barely out of it before he had texted him! Said asked if we would be happy to have coffee and dates with this friend, which of course we were, so after our walk we met him at a shop on the edge of the village which sells honey and date syrup and dispenses coffee to visitors. We were offered some of the honey to try, both acacia and cedar, and bought a small jar of the latter to take home as a gift for my sister.

02f55030-45b1-11e9-9a45-81f1ab5357c2.jpg
Bees at the honey shop
04ea9080-45b1-11e9-9a45-81f1ab5357c2.jpg
Said with his friend

08260c70-45b1-11e9-b4db-bf093c819adc.jpg
The honey shop owner


As we drove away from Misfat, Said detoured to a viewpoint in the newer part of the village so that we could take photos from a distance of the old houses and surrounding date plantations. Not only did he have a friend (or several) in every part of the country, he also knew a good viewpoint in each.

large_db7f41c0-45b8-11e9-b4db-bf093c819adc.jpg
View of Misfat Al Abriyeen

The Hat Mountains

Now it was time to head back up into the mountains. Said promised us some exciting driving and dramatic scenery, and he delivered! At first the road that took us upwards was of tarmac, winding up through an almost other-worldly volcanic landscape (Oman has no active volcanoes but many of its mountains were formed through volcanic activity which thrust up the ocean bed under the former Sea of Tethys).

71e4b0f0-45b9-11e9-b4db-bf093c819adc.jpg

71ea5640-45b9-11e9-8041-fb25bb86cef0.jpg

71107100-45b9-11e9-b4db-bf093c819adc.jpg

On the road to Sharaf al Alamayn

The road led to the stunning vista over the Hat Mountains at Sharaf al Alamayn, at a height of 2,000 metres above sea level.

large_11e14a20-45c2-11e9-8041-fb25bb86cef0.jpg
View from the Sharaf al Alamayn viewpoint

1226dea0-45c2-11e9-8041-fb25bb86cef0.jpg
At the Sharaf al Alamayn viewpoint

I wandered out along a little footpath to peer down into the valley below. I could see the aptly named Snake Canyon which we would be following on our drive.

large_1349b3c0-45c2-11e9-b769-2b0d73c8225a.jpg
View from the Sharaf al Alamayn viewpoint

1288adb0-45c2-11e9-8041-fb25bb86cef0.jpg
At the Sharaf al Alamayn viewpoint

1303d120-45c2-11e9-b769-2b0d73c8225a.jpg
View from the Sharaf al Alamayn viewpoint

Just after leaving the viewpoint the tarmac ended and the gravel road began.

large_1020d570-45c2-11e9-8041-fb25bb86cef0.jpg
The tarmac ends

This was serious off-roading, the narrow track clinging to the mountainside with a sheer drop below us. Indeed, Said told us that from time to time a tourist will ask him to turn back at this point, too terrified by the road conditions to want to go further. But I loved it!

large_9b93e480-45c7-11e9-b282-55ceb97c18d5.jpg
View from the road through Wadi Bani Awf

The track (I can’t in fairness call it a road!) led us for about 30 kilometres through Wadi Bani Awf. We climbed and dipped (on two occasions right down to, and into, the water!), twisted and turned. When, infrequently, another vehicle came towards us both that driver and Said needed to manoeuvre carefully to allow the cars to pass. And every dip, every twist and turn, revealed a new amazing view. Some of these photos were snatched from our moving car, some taken when Said was able to stop for me to do so.

large_9dc606c0-45c7-11e9-8b95-1987a158072b.jpg
9dce9240-45c7-11e9-b282-55ceb97c18d5.jpg9eff7120-45c7-11e9-b282-55ceb97c18d5.jpg
large_9ee7a360-45c7-11e9-b580-bf353983c933.jpg
large_9e875af0-45c7-11e9-b580-bf353983c933.jpg
Photos taken on the road through Wadi Bani Awf

At one point Said told us to ready our cameras for a surprising sight around the next bend. I was expecting another dramatic vista or maybe an old fort or crumbling building – not a vivid green football pitch! This is the Audi Bilad Sayt Football Field and was provided for the local villages through the sponsorship of the car company of the same name.

9eb76ba0-45c7-11e9-b282-55ceb97c18d5.jpg
The Audi Bilad Sayt Football Field

After this the road went over a ridge, dipped down into the wadi and then climbed again. At one point Said made a 'comfort stop' but while he was happy to pop behind a rock, and Chris felt no need to do so, I decided to hang on as I find seeking such relief in the open air rather challenging! I should perhaps have overcome my scruples however, as there was still a long way to go!

large_41b5d750-45c9-11e9-8b95-1987a158072b.jpg
On the road through Wadi Bani Awf

large_43a87f90-45c9-11e9-8b95-1987a158072b.jpg
On the road through Wadi Bani Awf
- at the 'comfort stop'

large_44a41da0-45c9-11e9-8b95-1987a158072b.jpg
On the road through Wadi Bani Awf
- you can clearly see the folds in the rock that indicate the previous volcanic activity here


The track ran above the dramatic gorge known as Snake Canyon - so named for its shape, not any reptilian inhabitants! At times we could look down into the gorge and see just how narrow it is - very different from Wadi Nakhal, the Grand Canyon of Oman, where we had started today’s drive.

4630b110-45c9-11e9-8b95-1987a158072b.jpg47708410-45c9-11e9-a949-ad9358da1a13.jpg
large_45ee77f0-45c9-11e9-8b95-1987a158072b.jpg
Snake Canyon from the road

Eventually we dipped down again and could briefly look into the mouth of the gorge.

46b01a40-45c9-11e9-8b95-1987a158072b.jpg408323b0-45c9-11e9-8b95-1987a158072b.jpg
At the far end of Snake Canyon

By now I was starting to regret my decision not to take advantage of Said’s earlier stop and I asked about the possibility of a second one, but the landscape here had even fewer rocks behind which to hide and I had to hang on!

large_1877f730-463f-11e9-a77f-99feaf1ccbdb.jpg
Nearing the end of our drive through Wadi Bani Awf

Then, suddenly, we were back on the tarmac! A newly constructed road took us the last few kilometres along the wadi, still very scenic but a bit less exciting (Said told us that until recently there was an additional 13 kilometres off-road at this point).

Nakhal

The new road brought us to a main road, and that to Nakhal where we parked by the almost deserted souk (deserted because it was Friday). I visited the immaculate public toilets, part of a small and equally deserted shopping mall, with some relief!

We took a few photos of the fort which apparently houses a gun museum, so I wasn’t too sorry that our itinerary didn’t include a visit.

9ffeca30-463f-11e9-b667-e1a0aaed5a36.jpg9f841bf0-463f-11e9-a77f-99feaf1ccbdb.jpg
Nakhal Fort

We had a late lunch in a traditional Omani restaurant, Al Barza Heritage Kitchen. The meal was a buffet - I was getting a bit fed up with these, as they are never my favourite form of eating (except at breakfast time) and to this point had been the only options for dinner on this trip. But it was quite nice to be able to choose from the selection of dishes rather than have a set meal put in front of us as we had for previous lunches, and the spicy chucks of tuna, rice, vegetables and traditional bread that I chose were all good, as were the dates and Omani coffee which finished the meal.

9fe3ef30-463f-11e9-a77f-99feaf1ccbdb.jpg
Al Barza Heritage Kitchen

Return to Muscat

From Nakhal we took the main highway straight to Muscat, arriving around 4.00 pm. We were spending the night back at the Al Falaj hotel where we had stayed on arriving in Oman last Saturday. This time, disappointingly, there was no upgrade, but our standard room, although compact, was very pleasant.

67db5730-4640-11e9-a77f-99feaf1ccbdb.jpg
Decorative detail in our room

682b24e0-4640-11e9-9431-3db0353cf0de.jpg
681552f0-4640-11e9-a77f-99feaf1ccbdb.jpg
Our room for our second stay at the Al Falaj hotel

We spent a couple of hours catching up with the outside world (no WiFi at Jebel Shams), firstly sitting by the hotel pool and later in our room. Our included dinner was as usual a buffet, but better than in most of the hotels we had stayed in so far, with a good selection of starters (I loved the cumin-spiced chickpea and potato salad) and some cooked-to-order noodles. And there was beer! I don’t want to sound over-addicted to alcohol, but somehow soft drinks just don’t go with food, and water gets dull after a while!

IMG_20190215_200033.jpg
Buffet dinner at the Al Falaj hotel

At this point the standard Undiscovered Destinations tour of Oman finishes, but we had booked an extension that tomorrow would see us fly to the south of the country. We were so pleased now that we had done so, as we were certainly not ready to go home!

Posted by ToonSarah 06:47 Archived in Oman Tagged landscapes mountains food road_trip restaurant ruins views hotel fort village camel oman muscat Comments (20)

(Entries 1 - 1 of 7) Page [1] 2 3 4 5 6 7 » Next