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OMAN

Driving a 4x4 through deserts, canyons and pristine beaches, camping in the wilderness
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OMAN: PHOTOS AND TRIP REPORT

Here below some of the most fascinating photos from Oman. Together with the photogallery, you will find a funny and interesting trip report full of info and anecdotes describing the whole travel itinerary. If you haven't read them yet, check out all travel info and precise itinerary here: www.wildtrips.net/oman.htm.

Muscat
Muscat, the beautiful capital of Oman

OMAN TRIP REPORT AND PHOTOS

We took our flight to Muscat, the capital of Oman. We landed in the Omani capital at 3AM local time (which would be 11PM GMT). We easily got our Visa.

We rented our shining Toyota Prado (booked through Auto Europe). We drove towards Muscat city center. It was late night so no traffic at all. We wanted to reach some nice, isolated place where we could take a nap. Instead - I don’t know why - we parked our car on Mutrah seafront, in front of the souk, the less quiet area of the whole Muscat.
Muscat Mutrah
Mutrah, Muscat - The rich quarter with the Sultan's palace.
At 6:30 AM it got quite hot and we woke up. Pedestrians were looking at us with some curiosity. We took off our italian clothes and we wore shorts and t-shirt. It was Christmas Eve.
Mutrah, the historic part of Muscat, was elegant and quite clean. A few red mountains were a beautiful background for buildings and Mosques. At half past seven the charming fish market became lively. There were people working, buying swordfish, talking and shouting.
Muscat Fish Market
Muscat Fish Market - The fascinating capital of Oman features lively markets and a nice backdrop of red mountains.
If you are not in a hurry, you should really spend some time at Mutrah and surroundings. We also visited the rich quarter near the sultan's palace.
Muscat
Muscat
Then we drove to Bandar Jissah beach - about 10 kms away. We took the wrong turn and we got to Jissah village instead. It wasn't a bad mistake: it was a nice little town on a beautiful bay. Most houses were small and made of sand and stone, on the beach there were several colourful boats. We were hoping that one of the fishermen could give us a "lift" to some other amazing beach.
Oman Jissah
Jissah - A quaint rural village with a beautiful beach.
We were lucky: one of the small boats was just leaving. We got closer and we saw six people, two of which were clearly european. We didn't have the courage to ask where they were going, but one of the kind Omanis invited us to join them for a fishing and beach trip. We accepted immediately.
Sailing on clear waters we passed through a natural stone arch. The sea was warm and it was a pleasure to swim among coulourful, half a meter long fish. One of the Omanis went spear-gun fishing and got three kilos of fish, two squids and a lobster in half an hour.
Oman Fisherman
Good fishing in Oman - An amazing boat trip brought us to know also the richness of Oman seas.
Among desert islands, rocks, red cliffs and wild nature, we decided to stop on a nice beach in a little island one km offshore. Our new friends created a BBQ in the sand and cooked the fish. It was the best pic-nic ever: fish and lobster ... all for free!!
Oman beach
Beach - A perfect location for a fish and lobster BBQ.
Oman beach
Beach
At 5 PM we were back from the trip. It was almost sunset. We drove towards the Al Shiraa Apartments hotel (which we had booked from Italy). The hotel was in Qurm, a part of Muscat about 30km away from Mutrah: the Omani capital is an insanely long town.
Along the road we stopped at a very modern commercial center. At the Carrefour ipermarket we bought the camping gear for the following days.
Muscat traffic was terrible after dusk - the commercial city centre shares the same pros and cons with european capitals. By using our Gps we arrived at the hotel at 10 PM. It was clean, nice and cheap - 45 euros for a double room.
The next day at 7 AM we were already at Seeb Intl Airport to pick up our friends. We wished each other "Merry Christmas" and we loaded the Toyota Prado so much that if we had brought one more pair of socks we would have had to leave it at the airport.
We drove inland through a boring, flat road. The landscape became more interesting when we started to see the first mountains. We arrived at Nakhl, our first destination, and we really liked it: in the middle of a beautiful oasis an impressive fort was standing among palm trees and small houses.
Oman Nakhl
Nakhl - One of the many forts and oasis around Oman.
Then we got lost a little bit, but finally we found our way: the 70-km long gravel road that runs through Wadi Bani Auf. A 4x4 is necessary for this adventurous itinerary, but the trail isn’t too difficult. The only important thing is not to get distracted by the amazing landscapes while driving on the edge of a 200-metre deep canyon. At the side of the road there were palm trees, red cliffs, mountains and small villages inhabited mostly by goats.
Oman Wadi Bani Auf
Wadi Bani Auf - An adventurous 4x4 drive through an impressive canyon.
The dirt road climbed up through a canyon until it got to the mountain top. From there we followed a paved and less interesting road towards Wadi Ghul. We started looking for a nice place where to camp.
We ventured into some side streets and finally we found a fairly isolated place at the bottom of a valley at the foot of the Wadi Ghul canyon. It was a barren land, among rocks and mountains, with a few dead trees that supplied us enough wood for the evening campfire. Oman vegetation isn’t lush at all, but there is almost always something to burn. We mounted table and tents, we built a small oven of stones and we enjoyed the evening.
In the morning we were drinking tea when we were approached by a man holding a shotgun. The end of the holiday? Luckily, no, he was a very nice person who was hunting foxes. He let us try to shoot (to a bush) and then he invited us to drink a coffee in his house, where we sat on the carpet in an empty room permeated by the incense smoke, we drank a cup of coffee and tasted dates and oranges.
We continued our trip to Wadi Ghul and then on Jebel Shams (the highest mountain in Oman). They were all very beautiful views, even if they didn’t hit us as much as Wadi Bani Auf, perhaps because they were too similar.
Oman Jebel Shams
Jebel Shams
Then we went to Nizwa. We explored the city center and the beautiful fort, a bit similar to Nakhl’s one. Then we drove to Ibra along a good road – only in Muscat we met some traffic - that ran through some beautiful and arid landscapes.
Nizwa
Nizwa
Nizwa
Nizwa
The interior of Oman offers little choice in terms of tourist accommodation. Luckily, we found two rooms at the simple Ibra Motel: they were not worthy thirty euros each, but they could have been worse. Ibra, which is close to the huge Al Sharqiya Sands desert, looks like a frontier town: there are fuel stations and modern buildings and shacks and lots of 4x4s, plus a quite lively market, particularly for fruit and vegetables. It has its own charm.
We had a very good and abundant dinner in the restaurant just opposite the Ibra Motel: vegetable appetizers, sauces, rice, spices and excellent chicken and lamb kebab. We spent 10 euros each, but only because we were very hungry.
The next day we headed towards the dunes of Al Sharqiya Sands, a must-visit destination along a travel itinerary in Oman.
We drove up and down the dunes following the main sandy track, which led to a couple of campsites (the directions were for the "1000 Nights Camp") and then to Masirah Island and the south of Oman. Along this track there was some passage of 4x4s now and then, so we felt safe enough: someone could help us in case of any problems.
Al Sharqiya Sands
Al Sharqiya Sands - A huge desert and the perfect destination for dune bashing or for enjoying the sunset from the top of a dune.
We were also tempted by the idea of crossing the whole desert with an adventurous French family we met along the way. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for that. Therefore we contented to go dune bashing without getting too far from the main track. We stopped to camp in the middle of Al Sharqiya Sands. We walked over the dunes to a position where we could enjoy the beautiful sunset. Back to our camp, we lit the fire and cooked dinner.
Our next stop along our ideal travel itinerary was Wadi Bani Khalid. Among white and red mountains and palm trees, some small lakes created a beautiful environment for swimming or sunbathing. There were several Omani families on a day trip. We had lunch in the restaurant that overlooked the green waters of the Wadi. We didn’t spend much and the food was decent and copious.
Then we drove towards the Indian Ocean. Ras-Al-Hadd was our destination. There was a strong wind that often raised clouds of sand. The sea was white with foam. To the south of Ras-al-Hadd the coast was flat and sandy, with some lifeless villages and colourful fishing boats, white waves and blue sea.
Sur
Sur
Once in Ras-Al-Hadd, we looked for a hotel. The Turtle Beach Resort should have been a deluxe hotel, but the only available rooms were horrible and too expensive bungalows. Instead we found a room for 4 persons at Ras-al-Hadd Beach Hotel. It was nice, but not too expensive, about 40 euros per person including breakfast.
In the evening we tried to see the famous birth of the turtles on the beach of Ras-Al-Jinz. It is necessary to go there with a guided tour, which I recommend to book in advance, because we were lucky to find a place for us. However, that night the turtles didn’t show up, because of the wind.
The next day we drove along the coast towards Muscat. Our first destination along this itinerary was the amazing Wadi Shab. The breeze was still strong, but it got lighter during the day; moreover, canyons are well protected against the wind.
Wadi Shab
Wadi Shab - An extraordinary canyon with palms, natural pools and beautiful trails.
When we reached the Wadi we were immediately hit by the impressive entrance, with a green river that flowed into the sea between red vertical cliffs. Unfortunately the bridge of the nearby highway spoiled the view. A taxi-boat for few cents crossed the river to allow travellers to venture into the canyon. We trekked along a path for 45 minutes between the cliffs. There were palm trees, rocks and clear, green waters: we were enraptured by the beautiful landscape.
Wadi Shab
Wadi Shab
Finally we arrived at a sequence of natural pools closed by rocky walls. Here people swam and relaxed. We sun-bathed and dipped in the water, that was quite hot. By swimming in the pools we reached a narrow underground passage between the rocks. There was room just for the hands and the head. We swam through that natural minitunnel and we arrived in an underground lake. There was also a small underground waterfall. Amazing!
Wadi Shab
Wadi Shab natural underground pool - By swimming in the pools and venturing into a narrow natural tunnel, almost completely underwater, it is possible to reach this memorable lake and the underground waterfall.
Wadi Shab
Wadi Shab natural underground pool
Wadi Shab
Wadi Shab
Exploration, dips, photos, we did all we had to do. We went back to the jeep and we ventured into the nearby Wadi Tiwi, another impressive canyon. Its beauty was less dazzling, but still special. The rocky road, the huge boulders, the vertical walls, the perched quaint villages with goats and farmers had a rustic charm.
Wadi Tiwi
Wadi Tiwi - As you might have noticed, Oman is full of wadis, and we liked them a lot.
We decided to drive towards Muscat untilwe reached a nice beach where we set up our camp two meters away from the sea. We had dinner around the bonfire, we contemplated the sea illuminated by the full moon and the stars and we fell asleep, exhausted.
Oman camping
Camping in Oman - Freedom and nature and bonfire and a good night sleep lulled by the Indian Ocean waves.
When we woke up we were happy to admire the long beach, the cliffs that closed the bay, the clean sea…
Oman beach
Oman beach
After breakfast we drove to an immense beach near As Sifah. The scenery along the road was amazing.
Oman fjord
Oman fjord
Oman beach and shipwreck
Beach and shipwreck
Then we changed again and, driving towards Muscat, we found a beautiful bay where two fishermen for a few Rials offered us a ride to an even more fascinating beach. Walking on the rocks and doing a bit of snorkeling we noticed corals, large crabs, colorful fish and some disturbing oddities, such as long chains of gelatinous mollusks, sort of small jellyfish floating in the water.
OmanSnorkeling
Snorkeling
Oman beach
Oman beach near Muscat
It was sunset when we went back to the jeep. We reached Muscat and we walked around the buzzing souk. We avoided the most obvious tourist traps and instead we entered a secluded store where we bought hookah and dates for a total cost of twelve euros.
We dined rather well in a restaurant in a nice location at the souk, then we calmly headed to the airport. We dropped off the Toyota Prado. It had lost a small, insignificant piece of the bumper, but at the Hertz desk they were so kind that they didn’t ask us for a cent (seriously, the Omanis’ gentleness is incredible).
The flight back home was uneventful, except for one huge problem: the holiday was over. Wishing for a longer travel itinerary in Oman, we were eager to come back.
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