Tuesday, March 25, 2014


One of the great things about living in Al Ain is that it's pretty close to everything. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are only about an hour away, the empty quarter is just south, and the Oman border is only minutes away. Amy and I decided to start out March by hopping the border and heading into Oman with a local group called the Al Ain Weekenders. We didn't know what to expect, but we were happily surprised. 

The geography in Oman is drastically different than the U.A.E. Instead of an ocean of sand dunes and sky, Oman is filled with enormous mountains and rugged terrain. 

The first stop on our weekend adventure was an ancient burial ground in Al Ayn (not our hometown, Al Ain). The beehive tombs here are thousands of years old. They predate Islam and are thought to have been built during the Bronze Age.

After taking some pictures and enjoying the beautiful weather we drove up the road for a hike into a wadi. This wadi is know as Wadi Dam. It's popular with the locals because of its beauty and because of the natural spring that leaves it filled with water year round.

The color of the water in the wadi is incredible. It has an intense aquamarine, emerald green hue to it. In most places the water is shallow, but occasionally wide pools would open up. There was no chance that we were leaving without taking a swim!

After a quick swim and a stop into a cave to see some bats we drove towards our hotel on top of Jebel Shams. As we approached the road to Jebel Shams we drove through Al Hamra. According to the local Emirati on the trip, Al Hamra is the town that you would visit if you ever needed to conjure a djinn. Good to know. 

After we left Al Hamra we stumbled across the ancient village of Al Hajir. This is an amazing place because you can literally see history unfold in front of your eyes. The oldest part of the village, which must be hundreds, if not thousands of years old, sits unoccupied above the newer village, which sits unoccupied above the fields that the current residents work, and then retreat to their newer houses on the opposite side of the wadi.

After a long day of traveling and adventure we finally made it to our "resort" on the top of Jebel Shams. We were lucky and got a "room" which was actually modeled after a traditional Bedouin tent (but with all of the modern conveniences).

The next morning we awoke and were only a short drive from the Jebel Shams canyon trail. There's a village at the trail head and the locals sell their their crafts (and rocks) to the tourists that come to hike.

Jebel Shams is the highest mountain in Oman. The summit is just short of 10,000 feet. The mountains in this region have a unique profile that when viewed at dusk the silhouette resembles the raked teeth of a circular saw blade. In the case of Jebel Shams, it's as if two of the teeth were pulled apart forming one of the deepest gorges I've ever seen.

The hiking was exhilarating but also intense. The trail had been washed out in places by recent rains, so at times our progress was slow. Also, we descended into the canyon, so the thought remained with us that we were going to have climb uphill on the way back.

(If you look closely you can just barely make out the small village a few thousand feet below on the canyon floor)

As the day progressed we inched closer and closer to the most scenic part of the canyon. The village that we passed through at the trail head was originally established on the canyon rim. It resembles the dwellings at mesa verde in the US. Villagers lived here as recent as the 1980's!

It's really difficult to express just how large this place is. The pictures don't do it justice. But, to give you an idea, in the next picture if you look closely above the arched rock formation in the canyon wall, just above it you will notice a small stepped pattern. These are the villages stepped farming terraces, and just to their left is the village itself.

We stopped at the village for lunch and we were joined by the villages new residents who were very excited to see what was in our bags.

Our first experience in Oman could not have been better. We are lucky to be so close to such a beautiful place, and we will definitely be heading back soon!

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