"Bring Oman A Fiend"
Wadi Discovery < OMAN VISITOR

1996 Wadi Discovery Expedition: Oman

Danny: The Netherlands

From may 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.

Day 1

Sunday 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.

Back at 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.

Day 2

Again a 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.

Day 3

After a 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 recordings.

After the 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.

What is 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!

Then it 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.

The Nizwa 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.

A "nice" 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.

After visiting 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.

Day 4

At 06:00 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!

Just before 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.

The next 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!

After visiting 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.

Day 5

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.