Against our original plan, we ended up staying in Muscat for three nights, instead of the planned two. Already on the first day, we had managed to drive around the city to the extent that most of the main attractions were ticked off our list. Therefore, we had to choose – should we head to the less famous areas and less known sights, or should we head out of the city to check out some sights nearby, but out of the city. As we had the rental car with us, we decided to take the most out of it and enjoy the freedom and the possibility to explore the more distant places. After getting some valuable hints from our hotel reception, we managed to create a plan that would take us out of the city for the entire day. During the day, we visited a total of three different attractions and drove a bit over 400 kilometers.
It is almost impossible to understand how much you can see in a day. Let alone when there are two of those days in a row. And in a city which you felt you could not get anything out of before arrival when trying to google what to see and what to do in there. Already the first day turned out to be wonderful, and after the second day, I was sold. After the two days, I already felt like I had been in the country longer – it just felt like we had been to so many wonderful places already, that it had to be more than two days since crossing the borders. Little did I know that also the rest of the days would be just as amazing, but let’s not get ahead of time and stick to the second day in (and around) Muscat, and the places we visited.
Mazara Dam / Wadi Daygah Dam
Ok, so a dam might not be the first thing you might think would be worth seeing, but when you consider we are talking about a country where a big part of the area is covered by a desert, it actually starts to sound more interesting, you know, dam means water, in a dry country. And we are two engineers. So, to us, it was more than enough of a reason to visit this place. The Wadi Daygah dam is located an hour away from Muscat, and an absolutely beautiful spot! Here, the water in the lake above the dam is beautifully blue with a hint of green in it, the mountains rise up towards the blue sky behind. A place worth seeing even if you are not that interested in the dam itself. Surely, even I have to admit the dam in itself might not be worth driving up to from Muscat but, as it is nicely located on the way to the other two sights I’ll soon tell about, it sure is worth the little detour if you are not in a rush.
Wadi Shab is a place I could easily dedicate a full post to, but I’ll take a risk and include it here anyways, even if this post might end up being a long one..
Wadi is arabic and freely translates as a dry riverbed that contains water only after heavy rains. Well, in this case, there was water, sometimes lots of it, despite it was not a way season nor had it been raining in days. But, it only made the place better.
Wadi Shab is one of the best known and most popular wadis in the country and for a reason – it is stunning! Although, I must admit that i had no idea where we were going when we parked our car on the parking lot. After stepping out of the car, we sort of looked around wondering why we had driven all the way down here. In front of our eyes opened a river, some tens of meters wide, a few hundred meters away we saw steep walls of rock and a narrow passage in between them, lined with palmtrees. Sure, it was a beautiful spot, but it really did not seem like a place I’d highly recommend anyone to drive 200kms for.
We saw people crossing the river with the boats operated by locals, so we hopped on the boat too and went to check what there is on the other side of the river. After the two minute boat ride, we hopped off and started walking along a track that led us deeper into the canyon. The path seemed to go on and on and we had no idea where we were heading. We met other tourists on the way and were warned about the path that would be dangerous later on and told we would be in trouble with our flip-flops.
Despite the warnings we decide to continue and see how far we can get. Turns out, the path does get more challenging, but nothing that becomes a problem. The further we go, the more challenging the path becomes, but at the same time, the more beautiful the views get. It is absolutely stunning at some places! The steep walls, the turquoise water and the palm trees lining the path, the blue sky on the back. We climb over rocks, jump off tiny cliffs and sometimes walk in water that gets above our knees. But it is all worth it, the scenery makes up the trouble…
After walking some half an hour, we decide it is time to turn around, the path is already a bit tricky and we really were not prepared for that long a walk, so we had no water with us and in the pouring heat, we thought it would be safer this way. Further on the path, some 10 minutes away would have been the ending point of the path, a pool with a cave at the end of it. But, without swimming gear, it would not have made a huge difference to walk up there based on the pictures i looked up later on (if you disagree and think we missed out on a lot still, please, please do not let me know… ;))
We walk back to the boats along the same path, admiring the scenery and nature around us. The place simply is stunning and if not already earlier, by now we are convinced that Muscat and its surrounding areas really make up quite a fascinating destination!
Before returning to Muscat, we still had one place to visit, the Bimmah sinkhole. Here, surrounded by a small park, is a 40-meters wide sinkhole. At the bottom, some 20 meters below the surrounding ground, is a small pond, a popular spot among the locals and the tourists to spend some time swimming in the clear, beautifully colored water in a pretty unique place.
We arrive here late in the afternoon, when the sun has already set enough so it does not shine in the sinkhole anymore. At this time of the day, most people have already left and we got to spend some time without the crowds, just enjoying this unique spot. But, arriving that late, it also meant that we missed the best of the sinkhole as, at least based on the photos I’ve seen, the colors of the pond are pretty spectacular when the sun shines straight into the water. Mind me, the colors were pretty beautiful even without the rays of sun.
As the sun started setting, we hopped on the car and started our drive back towards Muscat. If not already earlier, by then we were knew the country had turned out to be a better travel destination than we had dared to hope for – we were sold. The beautiful nature, interesting places, lovely people – all we could do was wonder, why the country is so much under the radar for most tourists, why aren’t people aware of this beautiful country – Is Oman kept as a secret from the crowds on purpose?