Wadi Discovery Expedition: Oman
19 to may 24 1996 I made a trip of about 1600 KM in the Sultanate of
Oman in the Middle East. Oman is situated on the Arabian Peninsula under
Saudi Arabia, on the Persian Gulf. Not in a usual car, but in a 4-wheel-drive.
For people who like to drive in such a vehicle Oman is the perfect place.
It starts at the petrol pump: price of the petrol is about 114 Baiza.
That is $0,40 US. The intention of the voyage was visiting the wadi's.
That are places where the rain and spring water from the mountains seeks
its way to the sea or lower plains. Water? Yes, even in Oman it rains
sometimes. What seems to be a dry river-bed changes in a few hours to
a wild streaming river. The water seeks a way between the steep rocks
on both sides of the wadi. The water also has its advantages: date-trees
are growing along the wadi and grow luxuriant due to the warmth and
the water. At the end of July it is harvest time for the dates. They
are dried and can be eaten. The trip I made went from wadi to wadi.
One is driving meanly on the river-bed or on the shores. You have to
cross the wadi frequently. That's why you can't make the trip without
a off-the-road vehicle in good condition.
may 19 16:30. At the Musqat Intercontinental Hotel I picked up the car
for the expedition to the wadi's of Oman: a Mitsubishi ECI V6 3000.
Plenty of power, 200 HP. That evening I packed the car, so I could start
early the next day. Especially water is important: take a lot with you.
I had a 10 litre tank and also took a lot of mineral water bottles.
Due to the filtering effects of the Jebel Ahkdar (green mountains) Oman
has a mineral water plant. Off course a good preparation is vital: maps
and a description of the route. It was good that I could buy a book
in Oman: Off the road in Oman. From that book I learned a lot for travelling
save in the desserts and mountains. The wadi's often change their paths
so that a map of the wadi's is almost impossible. But with a description
of what you see on the shores (buildings, ruins) you will find your
way. And of course there is always the local population. They where
always willing to help. The first day 07:00 departure from Musqat, the
capital of Oman. Target that day was the fishing town of Sur, 200 KM
from Musqat. The first 90 KM went over the so called black top roads.
After that distance the entrance of the first wadi occurs: Wadi Dayqah.
Gravel roads, so rattle! But with the 4-wheel-drive is that no problem.
This wadi is followed for about 10 KM, and then you must climb to the
top of the wadi. Then you have to follow the gravel road along the coast
to Sur. This road goes along al lot of little villages and it is fun
to talk to the people of Oman. Tourists are still rare in Oman. The
first wadi I visited was Wadi Shab. Some local Omani boys take you to
the other side by boat for half a Rial Omani ($1,5 US). A walk of an
hour (and the same time back to the car) made me very thirsty. I found
it lucky that it has rained a week before my visit: lots of flowers
to see and the dates growing very good.
the car I first had something to eat and to drink. A kind of pancakes
with marmalade on it. And a Coke for a price you can dream of in Holland.
Driving through the villages you see a lot of little shops: "sale
of foodstuff" you see on a sign. You can buy almost everything
in that shops. The next target was Wadi Tiwi where you can use the car
to enter the wadi. After 10 KM you will have to turn. I made a walk
of an hour and then went back to the car. You have to drink a lot with
temperatures of 40ß Centigrade! After this strenuous walk I visited
an old ruin near Sur before pitch camp for the first time.
early rise en left the camp at 07:00 for the trip to Wadi Tayin. After
a quick visit to Sur, another 80 KM trip brought me to the entrance
of Wadi Tayin. This wadi is situated at the other side of the mountains
I visited the day before. On the south side of the Eastern Hajar mountain
rangs. It is even possible to make a walk from one side of the mountains
to the other side: to Wadi Dayqah. The most striking of Wadi Tayin is
its wide entrance and the fact that you have to cross the river-bed
very frequently. The depth of the water was often more then half a meter.
So you have to look very good before crossing the water. During this
trip I met two Omani's and their Toyota pick-up. They didn't make the
crossing of the wadi and couldn't get the car loose. In such case you
just help. I placed my car in front of the Toyota and with means of
a rope their car was in no time at the other side of the wadi. Under
many "sjukrans" (thank you) I left the Omani's and proceeded
with the trip. On the banks you see a lot of watch-towers, mostly one
on the floor and one or two on the top of the hills surrounding the
wadi. While driving deeper into the wadi I met another Pajero with three
officials of the Omani Ministry of Tourism. They were very interested
in my trip and surprised of my good preparation. They give me some tips
for driving along. This trip ended after watching a beautiful sunset
and the second camp was made. The third day would bring me to the town
of Nizwa, not so far away, so I didn't to rise very early the next day.
good breakfast I left at 09:00 for Nizwa. First a one hour drive over
the graded roads to the road Sur - Musqat. After some KM I took the
Izki and Firq reduction. Destination was the fort of Birkit al Mawz.
Due to a restoration of the fort it was not possible to visit the inside
of the Omani castle. But thanks to the kind co-operation of a Omani,
responsible for the fort, I got a personal tour through the ancient
buildings. The heavy locks were opened and I made some very nice video
visit I went to another wadi which was situated on the rear side of
the fort: Wadi Muyadin. In this wadi there is reduction to the Souq
plateau. You may not enter this uplands without a written permission
of the Ministry of Defence, because there is a military post on top.
The other road of the wadi comes to a dead end and leads to some very
nice picnic spots. There is a lot of water flowing through the falah.
a falah? A falah is a artificial canal, half a meter wide and with the
same depth, through which the water from the mountains is led to the
villages in the dales. The mostly cool water flows rapidly through the
canal and there are some small fishes in it. The local people say that
as long there are fishes the water is in good condition. Free of bacteria's
and disease-germs. Many kilometres the falah streams through the landscape
before approaching a village. The first and most important use of the
water is for drinking. Then the water is used for washing people and
clothes. Finally the water is used for irrigation purposes. On the coast
there is a different type of falah then in the interior. At Wahibi Sands
at the beginning of the sand dessert, there is a underground running
falah of more then 120 KM lenght!
was time to eat and drink something at one of the picnic places. The
drive to Nizwa was not a long one and the first thing was checking in
in The Falah Daris Hotel, 5 KM outside Nizwa. That afternoon I drove
to the towns centre to visit and film the fort. The recently restored
fort is immense. There were newly placed canons at the main defence
ring, which has a diameter of more 45 metres. The view from that ring
on the town and date trees is thrilling. In the distance you see numerous
watch towers. Near the fort there is a beautiful mosque. The roof is
the most wonderful I have seen in Oman: dark blue tiles with gold inlays.
Very contrasting with the mountains in the background.
fort is, like all the other fortresses in Oman, free to visit at no
charges. A visitors book is situated at the entrance: watch the way
to fill out this book. From right to left due to the Arabic language.
I talked for a while with the two Omani "guards" of the fort
about the history of the fortresses in Oman. In the early days each
region in Oman had its own Wali (governor) who ruled over a Wilaya (province).
These Wali's used to fight sometimes and that's why there are so many
fortresses in the country.
detail is the use of the date honey. When the fort was assault the boiling
hot honey was poured out over the attackers!! In European medieval times
pitch was used for that purpose.
the fort I had dinner at the restaurant of the hotel. Asking "do
you have beer?" the answer was "yes, we have Bavaria"
There you were sitting in the outback of Oman and the had beer from
a brewery only a few kilometres away from the place were I live in Holland!
Perfect, a cold beer tastes good after driving a whole day through the
wadi's. After dinner I took a swim in the hotel's pool and then I went
to downtown Nizwa. Walking in the souqs is nice and after drinking some
Omani coffee with fresh dates I returned to the hotel. The next day
a huge trip: to the Omani Grand Ca§on at 2000 meters high.
I started my trip for that day to the Souq tabletop. Driving through
the villages of Al Hamra en Guhl the road climbs to 1000, 1500 meter.
When you stop to film or take pictures there are always some Omani children
to take a look and try to sell you their own made goat hair rugs. After
some haggle I bought a rug from one of the children for RO 7. After
a two hour drive I reached the top. A nice cool temperature of 26ß
Centigrade. A nice feeling after the humid 47ß of the day before
in Wadi Myadin!
you reach the top you must take e detour because you may not enter the
tabletop (military). What you see at the Grand Ca§on is unbelievable!
At the edge of the precipice you look down for one kilometre at the
wadi. You must not have any fear of heights. Splendid views and rocks
in this area. And a unique flora and fauna. Beautiful flowers and a
deafening noise of thousands of crickets. After some time at the top
I went back to the dale.
target on this day, and the ultimate object of my trip in Oman, was
the coastal town of Sohar, the town of Sindbad the Sailor. But before
reaching that town I had to visit the Jabrin fort in Bahla en to cross
a long wadi. First of all fort Jabrin. Again a imposing building. It
took years to restore the ruins. Striking is the cool temperature inside
the fort. That's because of the very thick walls. Inside the fort there
was a speciality of the region: stone bottles. The water in these stone
bottles keeps cool for a long time. A difference with other fortresses
in Oman is the fact that fort Jabrin lies in a plain while the other
ones lie in mountain ranges or towns. Of course with means of a watchtower
you can observe the surrounding plain very good!
the fort my trip went further to the town of Ibri and the entrance of
Wadi Hawasinah. This wadi starts with a blacktop road for some 20 kilometres
before passing into the gravel road with the typical pattern of grey
stones and sand. The vegetation is really green, that's why the mountains
here are called: Jebel Ahkdar, Green Mountains. During the drive through
the wadi I came across another 4-wheel-drive with some Omani's in it.
They showed me another route to Sohar which was better to drive then
the one I was following. Halfway I stopped at a post of the Royal Omani
Police to drink some fresh water. And to ask how fare it was to Sohar.
At 18:30 that evening I reached the coastal raod.
I had dinner
and slept at the Al Wadi hotel in Sohar. Then I drove back to Musqat
on the Sultan Qaboos motorway. A very successful trip on which I met
some very nice Omani people and saw a lot of the country.