Tag Archives: Desert

Oman Day 6 – Wadi View!

Tuesday Feb 26. After a good night’s sleep, lulled by the song of our crickets, we found that the wind, and its accompanying flying sand, had dropped somewhat: so the only hazard we had to deal with over breakfast was the flies, who fancied a share of our fare.

Apart from covering the food, another way to discourage them is to burn Frankincense; the scent seems to keep them away. The breakfast was, as all meals at the Hud Hud camps, excellent, and so we set out for the day feeling replete.
On the way out we passed a goat farm where the goats were all trooping along for their morning drink.

Goats returning to their farm for water, Oman desert

As we exited the desert, it was interesting to see just how clear and sharp was the delineation between it and not-desert – you see flat flat flat flat – desert,

Abrupt start to the Oman desert

alongside which is a stern warning!

Stern warning to all sand farmers, Oman

Frankly, I’m not sure how they’d know if you popped in and took a couple of truckfuls, but anyway….a longish drive back into the mountains took us to the outskirts of the village which takes its name from one of the most popular wadis in the area, Wadi Bani Khaled.

Before we took a walk along the banks of the wadi, Rashid took us off road to see it from above. The view over the village is quite striking

Wadi Bani Khalid, Oman

but the view of the wadi itself from even higher is, I think, the most spectacular view of the holiday so far.

Wadi Bani Khalid, Oman

The photo hardly does it justice; the contrast between the ruggedness of the rocks, the way the village nestles among them and the greenness of the wadi below makes this absolutely remarkably to stand and see. Even Rashid was struck by it

although his mate appeared to have his mind elsewhere.
It looked deserted from up there. We went down to discover that the parking was nearly full and that there were hordes of people heading up the wadi. Bloody tourists, giving tourism a bad name. However, it was a nice enough walk up the wadi, which has several irrigation channels running off it, obvs – the Omanis are vigilant in finding ways to get water to where it’s needed.

Wadi Bani Khalid, Oman

After a short walk, you arrive at a couple of pools

Wadi Bani Khalid, Oman

and you begin to realise the extent to which the area has been set up for tourists

with specially-installed viewpoints and also a restaurant, on the left in the picture below.

Wadi Bani Khalid, Oman

The restaurant serves a mean lemon-and-mint juice, and Jane reported herself satisfied also with the watermelon juice. The juice stop gave us a nice view of people having a nice time.

It’s then possible to walk a little way further up the wadi, where you can see pools that people can paddle or swim in.

though, this being where it is, there are some caveats about dress

(which were being quite widely ignored, sad to say; bloody tourists again, eh?).
Beyond that the path gets very rocky and in places slippery, so we didn’t go much further. on the way back, Jane got a fishy pedicure:

which started off apparently being very ticklish but soon became quite addictive. There was certainly one chap just up from where Jane sat who had been there with his feet in the water for quite some while.

After we’d exhausted the entertainment possibilities we headed off for lunch. The path beside the wadi passed a couple of mango trees, both magnificently in flower.

We’d enjoyed Wadi Bani Khaled, but at the same time found it slightly weird to have such (relatively speaking) naked pandering to tourism after all the other, less exploited places we’d visited. As our late neighbour Cyril used to lament, tourism is ruined by tourists, and this was the first inkling we’d really had about the encroaching effects of tourism in Oman. It’s an important industry, and the country needs to develop and grow it; but the downside is that nature will get built upon. Let’s hope that the Omani government will try to ensure that tourism development is done in the best possible taste.

Lunch was as usual an excellent picnic courtesy of our Hud Hud chef. After that, we headed back into the desert. En route, we saw the extent of the date palm plantation outside Biddiyah. The water supply that feeds it means it can spread until it butts up hard against the desert behind it.

Desert and Oasis outside Biddiyah, Oman

The object of going back into the desert was to visit Said’s gaff to gain a little insight into the bedouin culture. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but in the event it turned out to be a sizeable room, constructed in a traditional manner out of date palm trunks, stalks and leaves. That sounds insubstantial, but, as you can see from the picture below, it is a sizeable and robust fabrication. As you can also see from the cars parked outside, we weren’t the only visitors.

A Bedouin Family House, Oman

Half of the room is given over to carpets upon which coffee and dates are served to seated groups of visitors.

A Bedouin Family House, Oman

and the other half to, well, stuff – artefacts and domestic things, some of which are for sale and some of which aren’t.

A Bedouin Family House, Oman

To give you an idea of the construction, here are close-ups of the ceiling

which is date palm leaf stalks, and the walls

which are also date palm stalks, but with the leaves left on to provide a fibrous surround.

Our stay there was reasonably short, and we headed off back to the Wahiba sands to get back to camp in time for sunset.

En route, we saw several things worthy of a photo: some opportunistic goats grabbing an illicit snack;

Opportunistic goats, Oman

racing camels being taken back to their farms after exercise;

Racing camels returning after exercise, Oman

and some more hazards on and off the road (which carries right on towards Muhut until it suddently stops being a road and deposits you onto flat sand, at which point you are on your own – further underlining the need to make sure you’re properly prepared for desert travel).

We also stopped off to allow me to try for some arty shots of dunes

Wahiba sands, Oman desert

Wahiba sands, Oman desert

To get to a decent viewpoint for the sunset, we piled into the car (taking an extra member of the camp staff with us to help dig us out in case we got stuck on a dune somewhere) and Rashid took us dune-bashing via a circuitous route to the top of a dune overlooking a valley and served coffee whilst we awaited sunset.

The sunset itself wasn’t particularly spectacular, but the location was very zen.

Sunset, Wahiba sands, Oman desert

When we got back to camp, we had the usual excellent dinner and, while Patrick and Jane went off to hunt more scorpions, I set to to trying to get some images of the stars. I got some stills which were rather ho-hum, and then set a timelapse going. Again, it’s nothing too dramatic, but it looks like some aeroplanes came through, (I originally thought they might be shooting stars, but I now doubt that):

A post shared by Steve Walker (@spwalker2016) on

After all that excitement, since we were due to leave camp the following morning, there was nothing for it but to try to finish off the gin we’d bought on arrival in Oman. Patrick manfully stepped up to the plate to help us out and by hook or by crook we finished it off with just about time for a reasonable amount of sleep before having to face the next day, which is, of course, covered in the next gripping installment of this blog, where I hope we’ll meet again.

Oman Day 5 – Just Deserts

Monday 25 Feb. Today was spent transferring to our final camp, in the Omani desert (Wahiba sands, to be more precise). The first part was a reversal of our way in over the salt flats, obvs. We passed the incoming Hudhud truck, which was there to take away the beach camp which had been our home for the last couple of days.

Then we joined the Salalah-Muscat coast road, which I had expected us to follow for a long distance to take us round to the north of the desert that lies south of Muscat. But no; we linked up with Said, a pal of Rashid’s who is bedouin and hence who knows his way around the desert, so that he could take us on a short cut across the sands.

En route we encountered a pretty well-understood hazard of driving in Oman:

A fairly standard Oman road hazard

(remember the sign from yesterday?) and also unusual-looking formations of what we thought was rock

but which turned out to be layers of sand which had been rained on, solidified and then covered in more sand and rain and once again solidified. Striking, but actually very soft and crumbly.

One might be forgiven for thinking that the desert is, well, deserted. And it has to be said that there can be long distances between highlights; but highlights there were.

The first one was a bedouin settlement. Not tents and camels, but a collection of shacks in which they live

this settlement, called Juraywah, even has a school, which you can see in the background here:

Rashid debunked any idea we might have had about Bedouin being a separate race who lived an ancient and nomadic life among the dunes, carrying their tents and camels with them as they moved. “Bedouin” simply means “nomad”, and today’s bedouin, who are mainly found around Oman and the UAE, are nomadic, but largely between two established bases – the desert in Winter and the coast (as here) in Summer. Rather than their camels transporting them, they nowadays drive the camels in 4×4 trucks (remember my picture from the Days 3 and 4 post?)

It turned out that Said had his own reason to cross the desert – he was taking equipment out for another (non-Hudhud) camp. So Rashid helped him and some mates load up.

Amazingly, everything fitted!

Then we were off into the unforgiving sands of the desert, which have a variety of colours depending on age and mineral content.

We had to stop so that Rashid could let some air out of the tyres, to make the journey safer and more comfortable.

As we bowled along there were a surprising number of distractions from the landscape, which was pretty uniform all the way to the horizon.

with, threading through it, tracks that only the bedouin can confidently navigate.

For example: goats;

Goats in the desert, Oman

Goats in the desert, Oman

bedouin habitations;

a couple of Pakistani guys who have lived in the desert for four months whilst digging a 50-metre deep well, paid for by the local people to replace an older nearby well that was no longer useable;

a mosque;

A mosque in the desert, Oman

in fact there are several in the desert, each of which has water for travellers and their animals.

This was actually our lunch stop, under one of the only trees available for shade.

after which the desert carried on in its relentlessly sandy fashion.

Oman desert sand - multicoloured

until we reached the first outposts of “civilisation” – a tourist camp.

We made a small detour to see the father of our bedouin guide, Said, who is devoted to his racing camels.

I took this photo to record the distinctive way that Said’s father stood while chatting to Rashid.

Soon after our little detour we were running through Biddiyah, prior to turning off once again into the desert, in the Wahiba sands area. The wind was really whipping up the sand – not quite a sandstorm, but certainly enough to make it uncomfortable standing outside.

We arrived at our camp soon after.

If you look at the dunes on the right above, you can see the wind whipping the sand up – and sand was everywhere.

Camp manager Patrick, waiter Janaka and cook were the same team as we had looking after us in the moutains, so a joyful (and warm!) reunion ensued! The tents this time, fittingly, were bedouin style, made of woven sheep and goat hair.

and perfectly comfortable (of their sort).

Patrick reminded us to be careful about our footwear. He had checked for scorpions and cleared the main camp area, but in any case, it was worth taking care and not walking around barefoot. Scorpions tend to bury themselves just below the surface of the sand, so it’s very difficult to see them. We went on a scorpion hunt later that evening and Patrick had with him a neat trick for detecting scorpions – an ultraviolet light, which really reveals them. So, for example, you might hardly notice one just below the surface

but he/she/it becomes much clearer under the UV light:

We found a couple of them around the site, a good reminder to take care. The pictures really are quite remarkable!

A scorpion under ultra violet light

We had another splendid dinner, although we had to move the table into the majlis as the wind was still gusting and sending the sand flying. The camp crew fought a losing battle sweeping and clearing our bedroom and bathroom tents, only for everything in them to be covered in sand again in no time. After a couple of gins and a convivial chat with Patrick we retired to bed (along with a cricket or two, much to the surprise of the crew who have never had crickets in the desert camps before. Jane had to pursue and catch one of them twice before successfully ejecting it from our bedroom tent). I tried my hand at taking pictures of the stars, but I’d frankly had one gin too many and the best I can say is that lessons were learned for the following evening. I will post the results of those efforts, and the photos from the rest of the day in tomorrow’s blog post, which I hope you’ll want to read. See you there?