TRAVEL: Exploring Muscat, Oman

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I saw a dry arid desert area inhabited by the hum of vendors selling trinkets in an open-air market. Groups of busy women wearing burkas and hijabs bustling about haggling over prices and wrangling little ones who were exploring the vendor’s wares a little too clumsily. Camels tied to date trees and nearby men wearing kufis and dishdashas sitting under a tent sipping tea. This was what I envisioned Muscat, Oman would be like. To my chagrin there were no camels tied to date trees. I was really hoping for the camels. But, hey Muscat is a modern city. They get about in Honda’s and BMW’s like everybody else. It’s a quaint growing metropolis set on Oman’s coastline. I’ve heard a few of the expats describe it as being much like Dubai’s little sister. Like Dubai, it has all of the modern conveniences that a westerner is accustomed to except its smaller in scope and slower in pace.

Street in an area called Ruwi

 

Al Qurum area in Muscat

Al Qurum area in Muscat

The malls have a lot of the same stores that you’d find in the States and if you find yourself missing some U.S. fast food a lot of that is here, too.Still even with all the western influences and urbanization of this burgeoning city, an hours drive out of the city proper and you can find beautiful natural areas to explore as well. Contrary to my vision of Muscat, it’s not just a desert area. There are mangroves and river valleys or wadis that nurture fresh water pools in the dry season. I had the chance to visit one of the more popular wadis in Oman, Wadi Shaab.

The highlight of this particular wadi is the waterfall and the fresh water pools which one can enjoy after about a 45 minute hike over sand, small pebbles, and other rocky terrains. When you arrive at the wadi it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a hike in nature.

 

Wadi Shaab

Wadi Shaab

Underpass at the start of the Wadi Shaab

Underpass at the start of the Wadi Shaab

The wadi starts underneath a highway underpass. If the tide is in you can cross the small river to the other side on small motorboats helmed by locals for about 1 rial both ways. Or if you’re really audacious you can look for shallow areas and cross by foot and a maybe a little swimming. It can get pretty crowded here so I’d suggest getting there early and be mindful that if it’s a holiday there will be lots of people cooking out and such.

Family Cooking out under date trees in the Wadi Shaab

Family Cooking out under date trees in the Wadi Shaab

My companion and I came wearing comfortable sneakers that we were prepared to get wet and messy. Also in our backpacks we had a change of clothes, water, and snacks (which I highly recommend to anyone else taking this hike).  I’m sure to the locals we looked like we were overdoing it, for they wore mere flip-flops and had little to nothing in tow. It was as though they were just making a quick walk to the local swimming hole un-phased by the rocks, the climbing, and the mind-blowing heat.

Wadi Shaab

Wadi Shaab

 

I really have to address the heat situation, for being a southern girl I figured I could handle heat. However, I had forgotten that most southerners handle heat by staying out of it for the most part. This is especially during the hottest part of the day, which is when we chose to make the trek. Yes, we were nuts. Needless to say, there were many stops on the way to the pools in which I just knew that the end was near. Please, if you’re taking this trip during the warmer months bring plenty of water. Thankfully, I was able to shake it off and keep myself distracted with the gorgeous scenery and the reward of the fresh water pools that waited at the end of the trek.

Fresh water pools in Wadi Shaab

Fresh water pools in Wadi Shaab

 

Rocky Terrain in Wadi Shaab

Rocky Terrain in Wadi Shall

Fresh Water Pools at the end of the hike

Fresh Water Pools at the end of the hike

The pools were an awesome prize after the work of the hike and it was a beautiful experience. So no, Muscat wasn’t my romanticized “Nights Over Egypt” experience in the city, but I was happy with my updated version I found in Wadi Shaab.