Even though we had ridden the sand dunes while in Qatar, we were still hoping to do it again if we could do it in an open vehicle this time. We drove to the edge of town and the end of the road but didn't see any companies offering their guiding services.
We knew from experience that our car wasn't equipped to drive safely on the deep sand as we would have needed to deflate the tires at the very least. In addition, driving on those dunes required the expertise of a local. As a result, we only drove a few feet along the 'road' as we didn't want to get stuck in the sand.
A couple of locals in 4x4 vehicles drove up to us asking, in very broken English, if we wanted to take a ride with them. Steven tried drawing a picture of a 'dune buggy' as we didn't want to drive in a closed vehicle again.
After trying to explain we only wanted to go in a dune buggy or open vehicle, we realized they weren't available and so said no thanks. I know they thought we were 'odd ducks' as there were NO other foreigners out wandering by themselves by the desert.
According to wikipedia, the Sharqiya desert 'has been of scientific interest since a 1986 expedition by the (British) Royal Geographical Society documented the diversity of the terrain, the flora and fauna, noting 16,000 invertebrates as well as 200 species of other wildlife, including avifauna. They also documented 150 species of native flora.'
One of the homes backing up to the desert:
We saw a number of these very pretty, flowering bushes and were amazed at how hearty they were to withstand the desert heat and lack of moisture.
I was glad I didn't get any closer as I could hear plenty of bees buzzing.
The sand was obviously pretty darn hot in our sandals as you would expect. I could only imagine how impossibly hot it would have been for us to try and walk in the blistering 45 degree heat of summer. The sand was so deep it was hard to get traction as we attempted to climb some of the dunes.
I tried sidestepping up the dunes as if I had been on skis and trying to climb a hill. But I still had difficulty and I ended up crawling on all fours the rest of the way. Thank goodness I had the camera so Steven wasn't able to take photos of my fumbling ascent!
Coming down was much easier!
It was hugely fun walking amid the dunes especially when we came across crater-shaped ones like this one.
Another man drove up to us asking if we would like a one or two hour drive in the dunes in his truck but again we declined.
We had seen signs in English and Arabic imploring people not to litter but the amount of trash everywhere was just appalling.
This was the second Berger Paints sign we’d seen – so odd seeing that in the middle of a small town in Oman of all places!
Steven had to make sure he paid close attention to the road because of the huge drop off on both sides into the boulders.
Wadi Bani Khalid is one of the most famous wadis in Oman. A wadi is a valley, ravine, or channel that is dry except in the rainy season.
The sign in the parking lot requested tourists not to ask village children to carry our 'luggage' to the pools - that was no issue as there were no children around!
From the parking lot, it was a pleasant ten minute walk, past palm and mango groves, to the wadi. Part of the route was 'balancing' on the edge of the falaj or water channel which could be a little tricky. There were no lounging chairs here but this 'decadent' Arab alternative looked very appealing!
I found it amusing to read the 'No Swimming' sign even though that's why the majority of the people come to the wadi to do! There were caves beyond the pools but we were SO content to just luxuriate in the pools here instead.
The reward on arriving was a feast for the eyes with the scenic, clear water, butterflies and dragonflies flitting about, the lushness of the palm trees and a cool breeze. The natural beauty of the environment was stunning.
To arrive at the cafe and picnic area on the other side of the pool AND where a bit of shade was, we had to negotiate rocks on a steep part of the way before crossing a foot bridge on level ground. This was the glorious view from the bridge and where we swam to later. Without a doubt, it was one of the most amazing places to swim ever.
The shallower pool ranged from about six deep to over double that. I spent some time at the water's edge getting a free 'fish pedicure' from the many fish who liked to nibble ever so gently on my feet and legs. It was a fine line between pleasure and pain!
We had so much fun swimming here before venturing later under the bridge and swimming between the rocks for a good distance. It wasa little scary swimming in the narrow channel because of the steep rocks on either side. But we were able to get finger holds when we needed a rest before continuing on and before finally turning around to return to the pool. We were the only ones swimming in the channel although we had seen others earlier. I wished I had had a waterproof camera as the views and the experience of being in that ravine were phenomenal. To top it all off, there were even some small waterfalls!
There was a lifeguard from Sri Lanka making sure the swimmers in the pool were safe. He mentioned that there had been a number of drownings at Wadi Bani Khalid over the years. I didn't ask him if they had only occurred in this pool or beyond the bridge in the ravine.
A good view of the smaller pool:
We walked back to the parking lot after a couple of marvelous hours with mixed feelings: amazement with what we had just seen and done and wonder at what still lay ahead as the day was not over.
We’ve had horses and cattle cross the road before but never a camel before now!
The entrance gate welcoming all to the coastal city of Sur which was a major trading port with East Africa until the 20th century. I had read that Sur is the first city in all of Arab world that the sun hits each day as it’s so far east. That ‘honor’ actually belongs, however, to the tiny village of Ras Al Hadd further south and east.
Just as we entered the city, we couldn't help noticing this huge mosque.
Adam: For some reason, I noticed your name a couple of times in Oman which I thought was very unusual. In addition to this store in Sur just a block away from our hotel, was a city of the same name. We didn't get to it unfortunately as it was south of the Sharqiya desert sands area where we were this morning.