It instantly hit me. The Sultanate of Oman feels real. More real like any other place I’ve been to in Arabia. We spend a day in Abu Dhabi before we came here and usually every time I’m in the United Arab Emirates, I don’t feel like I’m in Arabia at all. This time though, I was desperate to see the Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi and was unlucky, because it is closed to the public every Friday morning. Since this was our only available time frame for a visit, we’ve only seen it from outside. Doesn’t matter this time, we’ll come back anyway.
Oman is located on the south-eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula with borders to Yemen and Saudi Arabia, with Iran on the other side of the Gulf Sea. Its capital Muscat is located in the north-eastern part of the country and is about an 3 to 4 hour drive away from Dubai.
We arrived in the afternoon at Muscat International Airport and the heat was still pulsating. Our hotel was located at the end of the Muscat Bay area and had a nice calm view over the downtown area. I liked it, because when you get in the town you are right in the middle of a buzzling atmosphere, you can’t see from outside. The city awakes after dawn and the souks and markets fill up with people. Locals hang out on the streets, shop owners in the souk start to sell their scarves, artefacts and basically all they can find to sell. It is a beautiful atmosphere. And it feels real. It feels like Arabia.
On our first full day we planned to go in the Mountains of Oman and see some Wadi’s, which means Valley in Arabic. We met our very nice Pakistani driver in the morning and took off. He told us how Muscat, a long time ago, were three little towns, that grew together and are now a big capital. Ruwi, the industrial part with a lot of commercial buildings, then there is Muttrah, the fishing village with the Souks and fish markets and the Bay Area. These three grew together and Muscat is still in a fast growing process. After driving for about half an hour, through a mountain range, he showed us where new homes were built and where the next districts of Muscat will be in the years to come.
Eventually our first stop has been the Sink Hole. It is a giant hole in the middle of nowhere, where land masses just disappeared. The sea water has creeped its way under the surface to it and it slightly filled up. It is a beautiful spot. As usual at such events, there are a lot of conspiracies, as to why the land disappeared, ranging from a warning from god, to a meteroid that has crashed into the surface to any other possible theory you can imagine.
For those of you, who know Casey Neistat’s amazing ‘Make it count’ video, this is the spot, where he jumped 30 meters into the Sink Hole in the middle of the video. Pretty sick.
After driving along the coastline and stopping at amazing beaches we arrived at the Wadi Shab. I heard it is one of the most beautiful areas in Oman and had quite a few expectations.
We entered the area with a short boat ride and we left our driver behind, who went to sleep in his car. We had one backpack, two bottles of water and about 45 degrees Celsius. Incredible heat.
It is about a 15 min hike from the beginning until you start to enter the Wadi. The pathway changed every couple hundred meters from white small rocks to sand to huge rocks or a simple trodden path. Cliffs rise up to the left and right in incredible height. Once you see the first bit of smaragd green water, you just want to start to go in. Further and further. It’s a bit like, it is calling out for you. Come closer! Closer! We eventually gave in.
We figured we could cross the first passage by walking through the water. I put my backpack above my head and the shoes attached, on top of it. Victoria had her shoes over her head as well. We started walking through the water and it became steadily deeper. We saw a rock where we wanted to get out on the other side of the passage. We figured the water level would be the exact height, where I could still walk and hold the backpack, without swimming, because swimming with a backpack is virtually impossible. So on our last few steps, almost at our desired rock, the water got to deep, I got surprised and went underwater. In a split second I threw the backpack to Victoria and apparently threw the backpack on her head, taking her down as well. We were both under water, with our stuff as well. Go figure!
We swam a meter and reached our rock. Luckily only half of our backpack got wet. (Our passports were also inside.) We managed to get back to the beginning and decided to not cross this passage through the water, but through a narrow rock passage, high up the cliffs.
The hike was simply outstanding. For the next 2 hours we were just gazing at this beautiful scenery, gasping for breath, drinking all our water and trying to find some shed.
Eventually we got really deep into the Wadi, that it was too dangerous for us to continue. We climbed up so high, that beside us the cliffs dropped about a hundred meters. We returned down safely and hiked all the way back. On our way back we couldn’t resist anymore and just jumped in, swam here, jumped in there and simply enjoyed ourselves.
On our way out, we found our driver still sleeping in his car. Purely relaxed of course. He drove back and we fell asleep instantly.
While reflecting on this day, I realized it is the most beautiful natural scenery I experienced so far. Take a look..
For the rest of our time in Muscat we explored the city, hung out at our lovely hotel property and just enjoyed being in an excitingly beautiful country. Then we flew to Dubai. Well, eventually.
I’m flying right now from Melbourne to Perth and don’t want to write about our Emergency landing from Muscat to Dubai, while flying. You may understand. Stay tuned for more posts coming!
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