A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about vertigo

Jebel Shams - Misfah - Al Hamra - Wadi Bani Awf - Muscat

From 3000m to sea level, we travel full circle back to where we started


View Oh! Man! Oman. 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Despite last night's shenanigans, I slept surprisingly well. I do feel like a wrung-out dish cloth this morning though, and therefore decide to miss breakfast. Said is very concerned when he hears I was sick last night; he says I should have woken him so he could have taken me to hospital. Really? Like they are going to want to know about a little vomiting.

We had been warned before we left home that the night time temperatures here in Jebel Shams can drop drastically and looking at the weather on-line a couple of weeks ago we saw that it had fallen below zero. We left our thermometer outside last night and when checking it this morning it said Minimum 5 °C. Quite cool, but not freezing.

large_Weather_Jebel_Shams.jpg
Weather forecast for Jebel Shams prior to leaving the UK

We take a different route down from Jebel Shams today, and the journey is, if at all possible, even more spectacular than driving up yesterday. I hang out of the window holding on to my camera for dear life, trying to get a decent shot. My success rate is very hit and miss.

large_The_Journe..bel_Shams_3.jpg

large_The_Journe..bel_Shams_6.jpg

large_The_Journe..bel_Shams_7.jpg

large_The_Journe..bel_Shams_9.jpg

Look at this hairpin bend!

large_The_Journe..el_Shams_10.jpg

Followed immediately by another.

large_The_Journe..el_Shams_11.jpg

The impressive turns continue all the way down.

large_The_Journe..el_Shams_13.jpg

Craggy peaks line the horizon.

large_The_Journe..el_Shams_14.jpg

large_The_Journe..el_Shams_15.jpg

Goats seem to thrive in this hostile environment.

large_The_Journe..ms_-_Goat_1.jpg

large_The_Journe..el_Shams_17.jpg

Misfat Al A'briyeen

This 400 year old village is considered the most beautiful in Oman.

large_Misfat_Al_..n_Village_1.jpg

Some of the houses are still occupied, mostly by farmers who grow dates, mango and papaya on the slopes below the village.

large_Misfat_Al_..n_Village_2.jpg

Many of the older generation are reluctant to move from their family home, although some of them only use their houses in the village as a weekend retreat/holiday home, escaping the heat of Muscat in the summer months.

large_Misfat_Al_..n_Village_3.jpg

A sign at the entrance to this village, a popular stop on the tourist route, asks visitors to show respect by covering their arms and legs before entering and always asking before taking pictures of people. I have deliberately learnt that one phrase in Arabic: “Mumkin sura, minfadlik” (May I take your photo please), and have not been refused yet, as people are usually so taken aback that I have spoken to them in their own language.

large_Misfat_Al_..n_Village_4.jpg

The donkey doesn't seem to object to having his photo taken, although I have to admit I didn't ask. All transport within the village is by donkey or hand carts.

large_Misfat_Al_..n_Village_6.jpg

It's a fascinating place, with narrow alleyways and steep, uneven stone steps. There is a lot of renovation work going on though, making it very difficult to take decent pictures.

large_Misfat_Al_..n_Village_5.jpg

large_Misfat_Al_.._Village_13.jpg

The village rises around 1000 meters above sea level and is named after the original inhabitants, the Al Abri family.

large_Misfat_Al_..n_Village_7.jpg

large_Misfat_Al_..n_Village_9.jpg

large_Misfat_Al_.._Village_10.jpg

large_Misfat_Al_.._Village_11.jpg

There are no wells in the village, the only fresh water available is from a spring higher up in the 'Grand Canyon'.

large_Misfat_Al_.._Village_14.jpg

large_Misfat_Al_.._Village_15.jpg

large_Misfat_Al_.._Village_12.jpg

Al Hamra Village

This traditional village with its mud brick houses dating back some 200-400 years, is very reminiscent of many such places we saw in Yemen back in 2007.

large_Al_Hamra_Village_3.jpg

large_Al_Hamra_Village_4.jpg

large_Al_Hamra_Village_5.jpg

We wander along narrow passageways, with towering walls either side, trying to imagine what this place would have looked like when it was bustling with women in dark abayas, men in their flowing white dishdash kaftans, donkeys braying and goats roaming free.

large_Al_Hamra_Village_7.jpg

Today, the only people we see are construction workers.

large_Al_Hamra_Village_14.jpg

large_Al_Hamra_Village_21.jpg

The village is otherwise hauntingly empty, with just the remnant echoes of bygone days and happier times.

large_Al_Hamra_Village_11.jpg

large_Al_Hamra_Village_16.jpg

large_Al_Hamra_Village_31.jpg

I am fascinated by the many ornate doors, some in better repair than others. “Who passed over these thresholds?” “What secrets lay behind them?” I mentally transport myself back 400 years and try to imagine the families who lived here.

large_Al_Hamra_Village_8.jpg

large_Al_Hamra_Village_17.jpg

large_Al_Hamra_Village_23.jpg

large_Al_Hamra_Village_25.jpg

large_Al_Hamra_Village_35.jpg

Wadi Bani Awf

From Al Hamra we continue downwards, through Wadi Bani Awf, the magnificent 'Snake Canyon', one of the most spectacular road trips we have ever taken. Not for the faint-hearted or those suffering from vertigo, the sheer escarpment of the Western Hajjar Mountains provides a breathtaking vista around every nerve-wracking hairpin bend.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_1.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_2.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_3.jpg

The drive is nerve-janglingly dramatic, with stupendous scenery and a rough, vertiginous track which challenges the skills of even experienced off-road drivers, and a 4WD is a must. Not to be attempted lightly, this journey is positively lethal during or after rain.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_7.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_Panorama_1.jpg

As we swing around each and every bend, I try to get some photographs by either hanging out of the window or holding my arm up through the open window and over the roof of the car, neither of which are terribly successful (or safe).

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_5.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_8.jpg

Very occasionally we see another car, but mostly we have the track to ourselves.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_9.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_11.jpg
Our road on the left, the village of Haat on the right, at the bottom of this canyon.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_12.jpg

Look at how this track snakes its way down the canyon - hence the name "Snake Canyon".

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_14.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_19.jpg

This terrain is definitely best suited to goats.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_-_Goat_1.jpg

We see the occasional isolated village (this one is Haat again), but mostly it is just stark mountain after mountain as far as the eye can see. It is an austere but beautiful vista, although living here must be harsh.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_25.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_26.jpg

Around villages we find plantations, and even a beautiful oases in a narrow gorge cut into the mountain.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_28.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_31.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_30.jpg

The most incongruous sight of them all, however, is this football pitch; miles from any obvious human habitation and on the only flat ground around. A abrupt piece of civilisation in an otherwise forbidding and almost monochrome environment.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_36.jpg
What? No floodlights?

We travel ever downwards, past fascinating rock formations on tracks that at times throw up a lot of dust, making us shut the windows to keep it out of the car and our lungs.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_32.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_33.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_34.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_35.jpg

We come across a convoy of vehicles filled with tourists travelling the opposite direction. I am so glad we are going downhill as I am sure the view is better this way.

large_Wadi_Bani_..affic_Jam_1.jpg

I am overawed by the technical engineering logistic and sheer amount of work it must have taken to create this road in such a perilous location. How did they get machinery up here to cut into the declivitous rock face and construct a road in such an improbable place?

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_43.jpg

It makes me feel somewhat (but not a lot) safer to know we are in a 4WD vehicle, and Said is an excellent, and very experienced, driver. Just look at that drop along the side of the road... “gulp”.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_44.jpg

Bait Bimah

At a flat area in the bottom of one of the gorges we stop in the shade of a tree. Intriguingly, there is a gate next to the tree. What on earth would you want a gate for in this remote and wild area? And what is behind the gate?

large_Bait_Bimah_11.jpg

We go through and find a gravel path leading past a building made from rocks. I look around as various parts of the surroundings come into view and I cannot believe my eyes: there is a veritable oases, with colourful bougainvillea adorning the perimeter fence, a restaurant, clean toilets, children's playground, sunbeds and outdoor seating areas. Unbelievable!

large_Bait_Bimah_1.jpg

large_Bait_Bimah_5.jpg

large_Bait_Bimah_6.jpg

large_Bait_Bimah_7.jpg

large_Bait_Bimah_8.jpg

large_Bait_Bimah_3.jpg

To one side of the covered seating area a buffet is laid out with delicious looking curries and rice. After last night's vomiting my stomach is still very fragile so I daren't eat anything. There are no public toilets along this road, and with a steep mountain one side and a sheer drop the other, 'going behind a bush' isn't an option either.

large_Bait_Bimah_4.jpg

large_Bait_Bimah..fet_Lunch_2.jpg

large_Bait_Bimah..fet_Lunch_1.jpg

After lunch, we continue on our journey ever downwards, and the scenery doesn't exactly get any worse.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_47.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_48.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_49.jpg

A large group of German tourists are blocking the road as they have got out of their cars to take pictures of the view. Again I feel grateful for travelling on a private tour for just the two of us.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_50.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_51.jpg

We drive precariously near the crumbling edge to get past them.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_52.jpg

As the dirt track meanders in a zigzag fashion further down the valley, we see more goats and a traditional felaj (irrigation channel) running alongside the road.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_53.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_54_-_Goats.jpg

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_55_Felaj.jpg
Irrigation channels a couple of metres up the rock face.

The felaj brings water to the plantations that start to appear.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_56.jpg

We both wish we had a geologist with us to explain the various types of rocks, and how the fascinating and varied strata are formed.

large_Wadi_Bani_Awf_57.jpg

Eventually the mountain track joins a main road and we are out of the canyon.

Nakhl Fort

At the imposing Nakhl Fort, built in the 16th century to protect Muscat from invading marauders coming across the mountains, we make a brief photo stop.

large_Nakhl_Fort_1.jpg

large_Nakhl_Fort_2.jpg

From here, the 120 kilometres or so to Muscat is along a smooth, asphalt road, and I doze in the car all the way.

Al Falaj Hotel

We have now made a full circle and are back where we started. This time, we have been upgraded to a corner suite, with a dining table for four and a lovely seating area with a cosy sofa and armchairs.

large_Al_Falaj_Hotel_Suite_4.jpg

large_Al_Falaj_Hotel_Suite_5.jpg

The bedroom itself is no bigger than a standard hotel room, but the living room is enormous!

large_Al_Falaj_Hotel_Suite_3.jpg

large_Al_Falaj_Hotel_Suite_2.jpg

Muscat by Night

Said, being the kind gentleman he is, has agreed to take us down to Muttrah Corniche tonight, just as the lights are fading, so that I can photograph the city after dark.

large_Muscat_by_Night_1.jpg

He goes off to the mosque to pray while I set up a tripod and admire the bright lights reflected in the harbour.

large_Muscat_by_Night_2.jpg

large_Muscat_by_Night_5.jpg

large_Muscat_by_Night_3.jpg

large_Muscat_by_Night_6.jpg

Room Service

Once we return to the hotel, we consider what we are going to do about food this evening. Despite having dinner included tonight (buffet) we decide to treat ourselves and order room service instead. It seems a sin not to make the most of the facilities we have here in this suite, and as most of you know by now, we are not at all keen on buffets. I eat half a burger and three chips, which is the first thing I have eaten all day after my vomiting last night.

large_Al_Falaj_H..oom_Service.jpg

And thus ends another fascinating day here in Oman, all thanks to Undiscovered Destinations.

large_F1A81902F3C310460A150C628EE5268D.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 04:35 Archived in Oman Tagged road_trip view ruins panorama lunch deserted journey buffet vista muscat 4wd steep vertigo suite goats ruined corniche haat spectacular jebel_shams hairpin_bends al_falaj_hotel lunch_buffet muttrah hajjar_mountains al_hamra falaj precipitous specticular declivitous craggy_peaks misfat_al_a'briyeen narrow_alleyways deserted_village wadi_bano_awf snake_canyon nerve_jangling football_pitch bait_bimah muttrah_corniche muscat_by_night room_servce upgraded felaj irrigation_channels nakhl_fort wadi_bani_awf Comments (5)

Nizwa - Jabreen - Bahla - Jebel Shams

Souqs and Castle, Canyons and Stars


View Oh! Man! Oman. 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

My tummy is feeling a little better this morning so I attempt some of the breakfast buffet. When we try to check out, we find that someone has charged some beers to our room – naughty naughty.

Nizwa

Today we are spending some time exploring Nizwa, the second biggest city in Oman.

large_B75A1323CC28DD66525A0A1ECD38E615.jpg

Oman's capital back in the 6th and 7th centuries, Nizwa wasn't always as friendly and welcoming as it is today. When Wilfred Thesiger did his epic journey in Arabia over half a century ago, his Bedouin companions thought the ferocious conservatives of the town would finish him off, so told him to avoid Nizwa. He would have been amazed to find that Nizwa is now the second-biggest tourist destination in Oman.

large_Nizwa_Gate_1.jpg

Nizwa Souq

Although most famous for its Friday animal market, there is still plenty to see in the souq (market) on other days. Today we see large groups of tourists from cruise ships, mainly French, but manage to mostly avoid them.

The pottery for sale in the souq is not made here in Nizwa, but has been transported from nearby Bahla where the special red mud is found. The white clay for the paler objects is imported from the US and UK.

large_Nizwa_1.jpg

large_B7826AD9D48DA0355774FFC691185156.jpg

large_B786529EFF096A698C7B9BF716ED300D.jpg

large_B78B4A16DB3077AEFE92E49C22BE66DB.jpg

The whole market has recently been rebuilt, but the souq itself is still traditional, with mainly just Omani men selling their wares; unlike the markets we have visited so far in Oman, where the stall holders were mostly Indians.

large_Nizwa_Vegetable_Market_5.jpg

large_Nizwa_Vegetable_Market_8.jpg

large_Nizwa_Vegetable_Market_4.jpg

large_Nizwa_Vegetable_Market_3.jpg

large_Nizwa_Vegetable_Market_9.jpg

large_Nizwa_Vegetable_Market_12.jpg

Most of the fruit and vegetables have been imported to cater for the large immigrant population from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. After visiting the vegetable market, we go to learn about the ubiquitous dates, and their importance in Omani culture.

large_Nizwa_Market_-_Dates_3.jpg

large_Nizwa_Market_-_Dates_2.jpg

There are over 40 different types of dates in Oman, some are for eating, some for making syrup, others for animal fodder.

large_Nizwa_Market_-_Dates_4.jpg

large_Nizwa_Market_-_Dates_5.jpg

large_Nizwa_Market_-_Halwa_4.jpg

Loosely woven baskets allows for the date syrup to seep through.

large_Nizwa_Mark..ate_Syrup_1.jpg
Date syrup for sale in large tubs in the market

Jam, and even 'datella' is also made from these fruits.

large_Nizwa_Mark..d_Datella_1.jpg

As with most establishments we visit in Oman, there is a small seating area for enjoying complimentary Omani coffee and dates.

large_Nizwa_Mark..nd_Coffee_1.jpg

large_Nizwa_Mark..nd_Coffee_2.jpg

Later we see how the halwa is made. Halwa is a sweet popular all over the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, and each country has its own style and jealously guarded secret recipe.

large_Nizwa_Market_-_Halwa_2.jpg

In Oman it is usually made of brown sugar, white sugar, cardamom, ghee and rosewater. Sometimes saffron (imported from Iran) and nuts are added.

large_Nizwa_Market_-_Halwa_3.jpg

The ingredients are mixed together and are cooked in a big copper pot (called mirjnl) over a fire traditionally made with acacia wood, and requires constant stirring for 3-4 hours.

large_Nizwa_Mark..Halwa_Pan_1.jpg

large_Nizwa_Mark..Halwa_Pan_2.jpg

The sticky sweet then needs to be cooled for around the same amount of time – this halwa was made early this morning and is still warm.

large_Nizwa_Market_-_Halwa_1.jpg

Nizwa souq is also well known for its silver and copper work, usually sold by weight.

large_Nizwa_Silver_Market_1.jpg

large_Nizwa_Silver_Market_2.jpg

large_Nizwa_Silver_Market_3.jpg

The spice market is the only part that has not been restored and it carries a warm and traditional atmosphere.

large_Nizwa_-_Spice_Market_7.jpg

large_Nizwa_-_Spice_Market_2.jpg

Spices are mostly imported from India, Tanzania, Zanzibar and other parts of Africa.

large_Nizwa_-_Spice_Market_5.jpg

large_Nizwa_-_Spice_Market_3.jpg

Local products include chamomile, dried roses and lavender.

large_Nizwa_-_Spice_Market_4.jpg

Frankincense. This is the first time I have seen this mysterious stuff – I have to confess that I had no idea what it looks like, how it is created or what it is used for. All I knew about frankincense is that it was given to baby Jesus by one of the wise men. An explanation for all these questions will follow in a later blog entry, as we do get to see the origin of frankincense and hear how it is produced and its various uses in a few days' time.

large_Nizwa_-_Sp..nkincense_1.jpg

Nizwa Fort and Castle

In the 17th century, when the fort was built, it controlled the whole area, including the old walled city of Nizwa. It took twelve years to construct, using stone, clay, sarooj (ancient Persian lime mortar) and date syrup.

large_Nizwa_Fort_1.jpg

large_Nizwa_Fort_4.jpg

large_Nizwa_Fort_6.jpg

Nizwa Fort is the biggest of several such defence outposts in the country.

large_Nizwa_Fort_2.jpg

large_Nizwa_Fort_15.jpg

large_Nizwa_Fort_17.jpg

Renovations of the fort took place between 1985 and 1995, and while the work is very tastefully done, it almost makes it look too 'new' or 'clinical'; reminiscent of a recently constructed Disneyesque theme park.

large_Nizwa_Fort_7.jpg

large_Nizwa_Fort_16.jpg

The actual fort itself was merely used for defence purposes; the living quarters and admin areas were inside the castle (which is also within the fortifications)

large_Nizwa_Fort_3.jpg

large_Nizwa_Fort_18.jpg

A woman can be seen making the traditional Omani flat bread from brown flour and salt water, using her hands to distribute the mix on a flat pan.

large_Nizwa_Fort..ing_Bread_1.jpg

Making ghee / cream from milk agitated in animal skin.

large_Nizwa_Fort_5.jpg

The narrow, winding staircase to the fighting platform is protected at numerous intervals by slots in the roof (known as 'murder holes'), through which a sticky mix of hot oil and honey was dropped on any enemies who were brave enough (or stupid enough) to try and to enter. A nasty and sickly sweet end.

large_Nizwa_Fort_14.jpg

large_Nizwa_Fort_8.jpg

large_Nizwa_Fort_19.jpg

Inside the complex there are twelve wells, in addition to secret escape tunnels leading for 12 kms under the ground.

large_Nizwa_Fort_9.jpg

The castle part of the fortifications dates back to the 9th century and is now a museum depicting Omani life as it was.

large_Nizwa_Fort_10.jpg

large_Nizwa_Fort_11.jpg

large_Nizwa_Fort_12.jpg

large_Nizwa_Fort_13.jpg

Jabrin Castle

About an hour later, we arrive at our second castle of the day.

large_Jabreen_Castle_1.jpg

large_Jabreen_Castle_5.jpg

large_Jabreen_Castle_23.jpg

large_Jabreen_Castle_24.jpg

Again the castle has been painstakingly restored (between 1980 and 1985), showing how it would have looked in its heyday.

large_Jabreen_Castle_7.jpg

large_Jabreen_Castle_8.jpg

large_Jabreen_Castle_19.jpg

large_Jabreen_Castle_20.jpg

large_Jabreen_Castle_25.jpg

The 17th century Jabrin Castle was built as a palatial residence for the Imam and his family and was more of a centre for knowledge and education than a fortification for battle.

large_Jabreen_Castle_26.jpg

large_Jabreen_Castle_2.jpg

large_Jabreen_Castle_3.jpg

large_Jabreen_Castle_4.jpg

The castle was later abandoned when the Imam's brother took over reign of the country in a bloody coup.

large_Jabreen_Castle_9.jpg

On the ground floor the kitchen and stores are located, the first floor housed the admin staff, the second floor was the living quarters for the Imam, women and young boys and the third floor would have been the prayer and study rooms. Around one hundred people lived here during the Imam's time.

large_Jabreen_Castle_15.jpg

large_Jabreen_Castle_16.jpg

large_Jabreen_Castle_17.jpg

large_Jabreen_Castle_14.jpg

One of the most unusual aspects of Jabrin Castle is the fact that the Imam had a room for his horse built on the upper storey near his personal quarters. The horse would have been led up a ramp in the curving passageway, in what is now a stairway for visitors. The animal was kept near in order to facilitate a quick escape as well as for sentimental reasons.

large_Jabreen_Ca..en_s_Jail_1.jpg

large_Jabreen_Castle_21.jpg
David and Said look down on me from the very top

large_Jabreen_Castle_22.jpg

large_Jabreen_Ca..am_s_Tomb_2.jpg

The Imam's tomb

Bahla Fort

Today seems to be a day of historical forts and castle, as we proceed to a viewpoint over the old town of Bahla, with the new town in the background (on the far left) and the fort, a UNESCO Heritage Site, standing proud and prominent.

large_Bahla_Fort_2.jpg

large_Bahla_1.jpg

The oldest parts of the fort are thought to date back to 500 BC, whereas the main building was constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries. Like the other forts we have visited, Bahla has just finished a 15-year restoration project.

large_Bahla_Fort_1.jpg

large_Bahla_Fort_3.jpg

The old town of Bahla is surrounded by some 12 km long adobe walls. The walls are said to have been designed 600 years ago by a woman.

large_Bahla_2.jpg

I am secretly relieved when Said suggests we merely photograph this fort from here, rather than traipse around it. I am feeling a little 'castled out' at the moment and rather hot and weary. I guess not having been eating much doesn't help.

Cemetery

I am fascinated by the old style traditional cemeteries in Oman, such as this one from 200 years ago. There are no headstones as such, and to the uninitiated it just looks like a random stony ground.

large_200-Year_Old_Cemetery_1.jpg

large_200-Year_Old_Cemetery_2.jpg

Lunch

We make a brief stop in the new town of Bahla for lunch, consisting of a simple falafel sandwich. I love how they put fries in their sandwiches.

large_Felafel_Sa..ch_in_Bahla.jpg

Hajjar Mountains

From Bahla it is uphill all the way as we make our way to Oman's highest mountain, Jebel Shams, in the Hajjar Mountain range.

large_Hajjar_Mou..bel_Shams_1.jpg

large_Hajjar_Mou..bel_Shams_2.jpg

large_Hajjar_Mou..bel_Shams_4.jpg

large_Hajjar_Mou..bel_Shams_5.jpg

large_Hajjar_Mou..bel_Shams_8.jpg
Look at the amazing crevice opening up at the bottom of this picture

large_Hajjar_Mou..bel_Shams_9.jpg
We are amazed to see a couple of European motor homes; they are a long way from home. Here in Oman, you can camp anywhere you like, no permission required.

The journey into the mountains this afternoon starts off on a sealed road, but as we climb higher, the smooth road becomes a dirt track.

large_Hajjar_Mou..el_Shams_10.jpg

large_Hajjar_Mou..el_Shams_12.jpg

The scenery is stark and barren, yet strangely varied, at least geologically.

large_Hajjar_Mou..el_Shams_13.jpg

large_Hajjar_Mou..el_Shams_14.jpg

large_Hajjar_Mou..el_Shams_15.jpg

large_Hajjar_Mou..el_Shams_16.jpg

Jebel Shams

Finally we reach the summit and our destination: Jebel Shams, the highest mountain in the Arabian peninsula at just over 3,000 metres high. It is not the mountain itself that is the main attraction here, however, it is the deep gorge affectionately known as 'Oman's Grand Canyon'.

large_Jebel_Sham..d_Canyon__1.jpg

Jebel Shams means 'Sun Mountains' in Arabic, and is so called because it is the first place to greet sunlight at dawn and the last to say farewell at dusk.

large_Jebel_Sham..d_Canyon__2.jpg

As we reach the balcony overlooking the ravine in the late afternoon, the shadows are long, and the contrasts too great for any photo to do this incredible view justice.

large_Jebel_Sham..d_Canyon__3.jpg

large_Jebel_Sham..d_Canyon__7.jpg

It is at this stage that my fear of heights takes over and I become irrationally paranoid with just a flimsy fence between me and the thousand metre drop below. I feel the chasm pulls me towards the edge, willing me to stumble and lose my footing. For a while I stand well back until I get my emotions under control and slow my heart beat down to something resembling normality.

large_Jebel_Sham..d_Canyon__4.jpg

large_Jebel_Sham..d_Canyon__8.jpg

When I finally pluck up enough courage to venture back to the edge of the cliff, I have nothing but admiration for the farmers who once toiled the earth on these terraces half way down the precipitous escarpment. It is not a good photo as the bush gets in the way, but it is best I can do; there is no way I am going to hang out over the railings to get a better view.

large_Jebel_Sham..d_Canyon__5.jpg

You can see the dizzying position of the terraces better on this photo. I would bet my bottom dollar that they didn't get danger money or use a safety harness.

large_Jebel_Sham.._Canyon__6B.jpg

Here you can see the village in the wadi at the very bottom of the canyon.

large_Jebel_Sham.._Canyon__10.jpg

The area is popular with hikers, and as you can see where I have highlighted on the pictures below, there is a track that goes down into the canyon. There is absolutely zero chance that you would get me on that path, even if you paid me a million pounds.

large_Jebel_Sham..ing_Track_2.jpg

large_Jebel_Sham..ing_Track_1.jpg

large_Jebel_Sham..ing_Track_3.jpg

I hope the people staying in this tent tonight are not prone to sleep walking.

large_Jebel_Sham..__11__tent_.jpg

Jebel Shams Resort

Thankfully we have a more solid accommodation for tonight, in an appropriately named 'Sunset Room'.

large_Jebel_Shams_Resort_13.jpg

large_Jebel_Shams_Resort_11.jpg

large_Jebel_Shams_Resort_1.jpg

The room is fairly basic, but quite comfortable. We have a sofa, a table and chairs and a small patio outside with a picnic table and fire pit.

large_Jebel_Shams_Resort_2.jpg

As we are miles from any habitation (and thus light pollution) here, I intend to wander out after dark to take some photos of the stars later tonight. I spot the picture on the wall, and vow to find that tree – or at least something similar – to ensure I have something of interest in the foreground for my photograph.

large_Jebel_Shams_Resort_3A.jpg

We grab ourselves a glass of Duty Free rum and Coke and settle down on the terrace to wait for the sunset.

large_Jebel_Sham..he_Sunset_2.jpg

large_Jebel_Sham..r_terrace_1.jpg
The view from our terrace - which of these will be my tree for later?

The weather is considerably cooler up here in the mountains and makes a very pleasant change from the stifling lowlands. We get our thermometer out and notice it did get rather hot earlier today. No wonder I was feeling so washed out in Nizwa.

large_46_degrees_C.jpg

Rock Cairns

While we are waiting for the sun to go through its nightly ritual, David picks up a number of different stones (there are plenty of them to choose from) to create a small rock cairn – partly as a joke because he knows how much our friend Ilona hates them!

large_Stone_Cairn_1.jpg

large_Stone_Cairn_2.jpg

large_Stone_Cairn_3.jpg

His success rate is so-so.

large_Stone_Cairn_4.jpg

large_Stone_Cairn_5.jpg

large_Stone_Cairn_6.jpg

Ilona was suitable impressed.

large_Cairn.jpg

Sunset

The sun slowly makes its way towards the horizon, painting the sky a beautiful yellow, with the misty mountains a darker shade of orange.

large_Sunset_at_Jebel_Shams_5.jpg

large_Sunset_at_Jebel_Shams_6.jpg

Even the grasses in the foreground are reflecting the rays from the golden globe in the sky.

large_Sunset_at_Jebel_Shams_7.jpg

We are hoping the sun is going to set in the valley between the two mountains.

large_Sunset_at_Jebel_Shams_11.jpg

Almost, but not quite. I am not complaining though, it is a stunning sunset.

large_Sunset_at_Jebel_Shams_14.jpg

large_Sunset_at_Jebel_Shams_16.jpg

It seems we are not the only ones who think so; a group of people appear right in my photo just as the sun disappears behind the mountain. I find I can use them as props for my photos rather than try to avoid them.

large_Sunset_at_Jebel_Shams_18.jpg

large_Sunset_at_Jebel_Shams_22.jpg

And then it was gone. All we are left with is a blood orange sky for a while, then a short time later a tiny sliver of a moon appears.

large_Sunset_at_Jebel_Shams_21.jpg

large_A57D141FEEA3455C66CE97FC1987AC70.jpg

Dinner

This evening's meal is in the main building by reception and consists of a buffet. I still don't have much of an appetite, so I just have a spoonful of what looks like a cross between a cottage pie and a lasagne (minced meat with a cheese sauce topping), some coleslaw and tabbouleh; while David tries a little bit of everything (fish, rice, vegetables, potatoes, the minced meat concoction, sweet and sour chicken, vegetarian stir fry) minus the salads. It is all very nice, but we don't linger as we have things to do and stars to photograph.

large_Jebel_Shams_Resort_12.jpg

large_Cottage_Pi..and_Tabuleh.jpg

large_A_little_b.._the_buffet.jpg

Star Gazing

We take a couple of chairs from the room with us and walk out across the plateau and find a tree to use as foreground for my star pictures. Once we reach a suitable specimen, I set up my tripod and take a few test shots.

large_The_Stars_..el_Shams_2B.jpg

Much as the stars are rather impressive up here, the core of the Milky Way does not show this time of year. My plan for tonight is to take a number of shots in succession to create a star trail. Hence the chair, as this could be a time-consuming venture.

large_The_Stars_..bel_Shams_3.jpg

The stars are amazingly bright and it is such a quiet area with very little light pollution. At least for a while. We've been sitting by the tree, chatting, watching the stars and letting the camera do its own thing for a while when the guests in the room next-door-but-one to us decide they are going to light a fire, play some (awful and very loud) music and get rather drunk. Hoping that I can rescue the bright red glow on my tree (from the fire) in Photoshop when I get home, I continue taking pictures for a while, until the party-goers turn the car headlights on to illuminate the whole plateau. Thanks guys. That is the end of my star trails.

I do mange to capture enough to make some sort of trails (153 images before the spot light is turned on), however I would have liked to do another hour's worth of photos at least. But it is not to be.

large_Star_Trail..Jebel_Shams.jpg

Here you can see a speeded up time lapse of how those stars move across the sky during the1½ hours, and the moment our neighbours lit the fire, plus every time they stoked it and the flames went up:
.

.

A little deflated I start to pack up my camera gear when I suddenly feel very nauseous. I have only walked a few yards towards to hotel before being violently sick. Throwing up several more times on my way to the room, I spend the next hour on the toilet with a bucket in my lap. Oh dear. I guess it was probably the salad, as that was the only thing I ate which David didn't, and he is right as rain.

Vomiting aside, it has been an absolutely amazing day, and I would like to thank Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this fabulous trip for us.

large_AEC63764CB42D3EA2B2F26811DDEFABC.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 08:33 Archived in Oman Tagged grand_canyon canyon fort market castle oman armoury spices pottery arabia wadi souk souq fortification steep vertigo dates bonfire sickness middle_east spice_market nausea vomiting hajar_mountains nizwa jebel_shams vegetable_market hajjar_mountains bahla halwa frankincense escape_tunnels sun_mountain jebel_shams_resort ravine jabreen jabrin hajar hajjar jabrin_castle bahla_fort oman's_grand_canyon precipitous fear_of_heights tabuleh tabbulehsunset fire_pit Comments (1)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]