A return to the mountains

Community Highlights Africa & The Middle East A return to the mountains

Al Hamra

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The tall houses of Al Hamra

After our lunch in Bahla, Said proposed a visit to Al Hamra, originally scheduled on our itinerary for tomorrow, as we had time for an extra stop. This is a more or less ruined village – only one of the houses has so far been restored to serve as a guesthouse, and we noticed another restoration in progress. But for the most part the old houses, many of them 400 years old, are left to crumble.

Here the houses all built of adobe rather than the stone we saw used elsewhere. Many are tall, up to four storeys in height, with ceilings made of palm beams and fronds topped by mud and straw.

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Exploring Al Hamra with Said

The village was built on a tilted rock slab and narrow lanes wind up between the houses, reminding us a little of Italy’s hilltop towns. This was possibly my favourite of the several ruined villages we visited in Oman and I took loads of photos during our short walk!

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In Al Hamra

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Doors in Al Hamra


Because the structures are of adobe there is none of the carving on the walls that we saw in Ibra. The most striking features therefore are the many ornately carved wooden doors and some interesting small windows, some with balconies.

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Al Hamra windows


As we left the village Said stopped on the far side of the main road so we could take pictures of the date plantations which lie between the old and new villages, and of the old houses beyond.

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Old Al Hamra from the road


The road then ran through a valley, Wadi Ghule, and we stopped again a little further along for views of the plantations and abandoned village ruins of the village of Riwaygh as-Safil opposite – hard to make out against the rocky mountain, apart from where flags had been hung from the crumbling walls.

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Wadi Ghule and the ruined houses of Riwaygh as-Safil

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The ruined houses of Riwaygh as-Safil

Jebel Shams

Then it was time for a return to the mountains, where we were to spend the night. The road wound up for ages, at first tarmac, later gravel. Jebel Shams is the tallest mountain in Oman at 3,009 metres, and while we didn’t go right to the top (access to which isn’t permitted, as it’s a military area) we did get to over 2,000 metres. The road up was much less developed than the one we had climbed yesterday at Jebel Akhdar but all the more scenic for that perhaps, and I managed to grab a few photos from the car as we climbed.

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The road up Jebel Shams

Said parked at the viewpoint for Oman’s Grand Canyon, Wadi Nakhal, which, while not quite on the scale of its US namesake, is pretty stunning. The light wasn’t great for photos - I suspect it rarely if ever is. But it was an impressive enough sight.

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Wadi Nakhal vista
- note the figure on the right and lack of fences!

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At the Wadi Nakhal vista point

Chris and I walked along near the edge (but not too near - there is no fence for the most part) to reach the highest point while Said drove off to our hotel to check us all in.

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Wadi Nakhal vista
- the people standing top right, at the highest point, will give you a sense of scale

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At the Wadi Nakhal vista point

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Jebel Shams observatory on the far side

When Said returned a short while later it was with the news that he had secured a coveted Sunset Room for us.

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Said waiting patiently while we take a few more photos!

But before going to the hotel he had one more stop for us, further along the canyon. From here we could look directly down to the village down in the wadi, almost a kilometre below where we stood!

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Looking down into Wadi Nakhal

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'Self portrait' with Chris and Said

Jebel Shams Resort

After this it was time to head to the hotel, Jebel Shams Resort. The rooms here are like small chalets, arranged in a circle. Ours was basic but large, with two beds. Outside was a terrace with a picnic table and the promised view towards where the sun would set. There was hot water, but no WiFi, and the room itself was not at all warm, the temperature now having fallen to around 14 degrees (and still an hour before sunset).

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Jebel Shams Resort

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Our room at Jebel Shams Resort


Once we’d settled in, we put on our jackets and sat outside to watch the sunset, which was pretty special. In an interesting twist, the shape of the mountain opposite caused the sun to appear to set twice! Apologies again for the surfeit of photos to follow!

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Taken while waiting for the sunset

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Going ...

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...going...

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...gone

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Or has it?

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Wait, it's back!

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Definitely gone this time!

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After the sunset


We spent the next hour trying in vain to get our room warmer, as the tiny fan heater provided was inadequate to the task and the wall-mounted A/C unit, despite promising 30 degrees, blew out only cool air.

We ate dinner with Said in the restaurant which thankfully was considerably warmer than our room. The vegetable soup was warming too but I didn’t fancy any of the hot dishes on the buffet so I just had some bread and hummus, and a piece of the rather odd bread pudding that was the only option for dessert. Not the best meal we have had in Oman!

We had told Said how cold our room was, and he arranged for the hotel to give us an extra blanket each, both of them very gaudy but soft and warm. We piled these on the beds and sat in them for the rest of the evening to create some warmth ahead of bedtime. This worked, and we snuggled down to sleep quite happily!

This featured blog entry was written by ToonSarah from the blog Sarah's travels.
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By ToonSarah

Posted Tue, Mar 12, 2019 | Oman | Comments