Bani Auf is one of five spectacular wadis in Al Rostaq
wilayat. Picturebook oasis villages, nurtured by copious
springs and aflaj, are a striking feature ofthis wadi
palm gardens tucked away deep in the wadi Pictures
by Abdullah Ibrahim al Shuhi
prepares the first-time visitor to this otherwise cheerless countryside
for what's in store just behind the forbidding facade of the Al
Jabal al Akhdar mountains.
within the recesses of these mountains strung along the Rostaq-Nakhl
route is Wadi Bani Auf, an ancient wadi offering breathtaking
vistas along its 26-kilometre trail.
Gorge, with its sheer rock faces,
cool springs and gurgling streams
Bani Auf is about 10 minutes' drive from the ancient quarter
of Al Rostaq, which is encircled by the dramatic profiles
of the Al Jabal al Akhdar.
little gap in the mountains, barely discernible from the main
road, reveals the entrance to the wadi, which cuts a swathe
deep into the mountainous terrain for about 26 kilometres.
its craggy summit, a crumbling watchtower, picturesque in
ruin, marks the entrance to the wadi. A short distance ahead,
a splash of vivid green brings you to a delightful oasis village
called Al Far'a.
by an underground falaj, date palms and an assortment of other
trees, grow rich and thick. It makes an enchanting sight amid
the barrenness of the wadi.
is verdant for several kilometres along one side of the wadi,
following the course of a perennially flowing falaj.Tucked
away in the cool confines of this growth are the houses of
local residents, shielded from the glare of the sun.
rains, and the inevitable floods, are in fact vital to replenish
the aquifers that feed aflaj and underground spring in the wadi.
Yet, at times, they can also be the bane of these villages.
the flooding is so severe that date trees and crops get destroyed.
After a heavy downpour, the wadi is in spate for at least 10-12
roaring wadi then turns into a gentle stream, with cool, crystal-clear
water, which flows for about 10 days thereafter. As a precaution,
local villagers now grow their crops and date trees terraced-fashion
along the higher elevations of the wadi.
lime, banana and fodder are also grown here. Because of
its location at the bottom of a gorge, sunrise is almost
three hours late over the wadi.
dusk sets in early as the towering wadi walls cast a shadow
over it.During winter, few other wadis can boast the kind
of climate that residents of Wadi bani Auf enjoy.
wadi turns pleasant, even chilly, especially after a spell
of rains. Four-wheel driving is perhaps the ideal way of
ensuring that all the natural delights offered by the wadi
are yours to savour.
stone houses in Wadi Bani Auf
of the wadi bed are gravelly, and often the bumpy track gets even
bumpier in the aftermath of a flood. A four-wheeler drive is therefore
stream fed by overflowing aflaj and underground springs gurgles
along the gravelly course of the wadi. Every now and then, visitors
will come upon these springs, which feed aflaj that channel water
for several kilometres into homes and plantations.
Al Balidah, the stream suddenly disappears, and follows a subterranean
course for a kilometre or two. It reappears overground thereafter,
and meanders along the course of the wadi.
fork in the wadi puts you in the direction of Al Jaf'r where the
springs are more bountiful. Pools of crystal water in the wadi
make for an inviting dip. Gnarled sidr trees giant by Oman's
arid standards grow in the wadi.
pools of Wadi Bani Auf
springs here are believed to have therapeutic properties.
In fact, the local folk come here to invoke the 'spirits'
of the spring to cure skin problems.
part of the ritual, a goat or sheep is slaughtered on the
occasion, a portion offered to the 'spirits' and the rest
is feasted upon.The route to the springs is barely motorable
even by four-wheel drive, hence the trail beyond will have
to be covered on foot.
visitors to the wadi leave their vehicles behind at this point,
and trek it out on foot. Snake Canyon lies not far ahead,
with its sheer rock faces, cool springs and gurgling streams.
gorge is considerably narrower along this stretch, with the canyon
walls towering on both sides. It is here that you get an insight
into nature's raw power where, over millions of years, it has
cut a deep swathe through rocky terrain to vent its fury eventually
into the sea.
massive boulders and rocks strewn along the wadi bed hold evidence
of furious floodwater action over the ages.At Al Qsmitien, the
gorge widens a little.
higher elevations along the wadi here, are the remains of stone
houses, cobbled together with stones found on the wadi bed. These
structures are a common feature wherever there are pockets of
habitation in the wadis of Rostaq wilayat .
the advent of modern brick-and-cement housing, wadi residents
lived in these structures. The ancient dwellings afforded tolerable
shelter even in the heat of summer.
fact, some dwellers still preserve these stone structures to use
as a majlis during winter, side-by-side with their modern houses.
The only peril, perhaps, is when scorpions or snakes take refuge
in the crevices of these structures. In the event, the structure
will have to be taken apart stone-by-stone until the unwelcome
intruder is located and dealt with.
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