Home Gulf Tour 2009 Oman's terrain a study in contrasts
Oman's terrain a study in contrasts
Written by Sarah Clarke   
Friday, 03 April 2009 00:00

Omani standing at the gate of Nizwa fort


This morning we were sad to bid farewell to what had been our “home from home” at Hamad bin Nasser Al Hashimi’s traditional Omani village in Bahla. We planned to visit the famous Al Hoota caves nearby. Unfortunately, due to the heavy rains, the caves were closed for safety reasons and a “Plan B” was required. Happily our guide Mohammad had the perfect alternative; a trip to Wadi Tanuf, a short drive from Bahla.

The approach to Wadi Tanuf took us past the ruins of the old village of Tanuf. Nestled at the foot of mountains, it is a maze of the remains of a hundred or more old buildings and makes an excellent place to explore on foot before heading to the Wadi itself. 

Arriving at the wadi we realized there was a benefit to the rains of the past few days; the wadi was full of rushing water, the vegetation lining the banks was a rich green and a beautiful waterfall was a cascade of shimmering, crystal clear water. 

Sarah at the waterfall at Wadi Tanuf

This area is a choice spot for picnics and many Omani families were taking advantage of the weekend to relax in the peaceful surroundings. We spent some time watching local children playing in the cool water and more adventurous young men diving into the deeper waters. However, none of the team could pluck up the courage to do either! 

Further into the wadi we were forced to turn back as the waters were too deep and the mud too thick for us to explore further.

Next stop was the old capital city of Nizwa with its enormous fort and castle. What a contrast! Constructed in the time of Imam bin Saif Al Ya’rubi at the middle of the 17th century the fort took 12 years to complete and consists of an enormous earth filled stone tower over laid with traditional cement. At a diameter of 45m and height of 34m on foundations that extend a further 30m below ground it is certainly an imposing sight. 

I climbed the many zigzagging stairs to the top of the tower, successfully negotiating 6 pit falls on the way (hidden in the stairs to catch intruders of old) and felt tiny in the centre of this huge tower. The views from the top over the old city, souq and blue and gold topped mosque were stunning. The adjoining castle, constructed by Imam A’ssalt bin Malik Al Kharousi in the 9th century and renewed in 1624 by Imam Nasser bin Murshid Al Ya’rubi, was equally spectacular, comprising many traditionally furnished rooms on two floors. 

There’s an extensive exhibition about life in the fort and castle, the history of both and details of ancient Nizwa Omani culture. Sadly, the car horn was blaring again before I had time to explore it fully. Note to self: must learn to be a better time keeper on this trip!

Bedouin camp in Wahiba Sands

Though sad to be leaving the mountains behind as we headed out of the city, there was a sense of excitement among the team members as we contemplated our next stop; Wahiba Sands, one of Oman’s many deserts Heading east towards Wahiba, the mountains quickly gave way to a flat barren landscape stretching as far as the eye could see. Our three hour drive was only punctuated by a scrumptious lunch at the Iraqi Kitchen in Sinnow; ask for fish, I can attest it was delicious!

And then we hit the desert! Wow! Amazing! Spectacular! And every other superlative that you can think of! I never imagined I’d be typing this sitting in the middle of a Bedouin Camp surrounded by mountain-like sand dunes, just like you’ve seen in the movies. 

We’re guests for the night at Hamdan Al Hajry’s Bedouins Camp which consists of a traditional beduoin eating and meeting area surrounded by simple but comfortable tents. As I type I can smell the aromas of another delicious Omani meal being prepared on an open fire and can hear the traditional Omani musicians warming up to entertain us. What a wonderful end to a day that has had everything; mountains and wadis, barren landscapes and desert!

Hamdan walking in the desertDriving into the dunes at sunset



The team, with tour guide Mohammed Al Maskari, in front of the gate to the Sultan of Oman's new palace