Saturday, April 18, 2009

Jebel Shams, Oman

Ops Jalan Sakan (Mission: Travelots) - UAE and Oman, Spring 2009
Part 2

April 3rd, 2009. Day.

After breakfast (around 10am) we left Al-Ain and headed for the UAE/Oman border.
Getting out of UAE took longer than expected. We had to fill up a form for each person and pay an exit visa. By the time we were done, it was almost noon.
Next we had to go through the Oman immigration. The dads took care of everything while the moms and kids hung around the beautiful immigration building. Taufik said they looked at a person's work permit before issuing a visa. If you're a mere 'technician' or lower, most likely your visa would be rejected. I guess this is a way to control illegal immigrant workers. At the customs, they could also be really strict. From what I read, if you're a non-muslim they'll check for liqour, since UAE has no restrictions on alcohol. When it was our turn, the custom's officer's girlfriend/mom/someone called on his mobile and he saw we were muslims, so he just looked at our visa receipt and waved us through. tee hee.

By the time we entered The Sultanate of Oman (trivia: one of only 2 sultanates in the world)(Pop quiz: what is the other one?), it was half past 1pm, so we decided to hurry on to Ibri for lunch and break for solat. We couldnt really drive so fast because like UAE, Oman has a lot of stationary radars placed along their highway. Furthermore, the road from Al-Ain to Nizwa is not really a big highway, but a two-way lane.
The scenery during the first part of our journey was mostly flat rocky land with a few orange dunes and trees that resembles the ones in Africa. As we pass Ibri and drive towards Bahla, mountains started to appear. By the time we reached Bahla, the road started to wind and ascend as we drive into the mountainous region.

Bahla is a really small town, but it is home to the Bahla fort, which is an official UNESCO heritage site and currently going under restoration. We couldnt go in, so we just took pictures of it outside. It looks huge, bigger than Nizwa Fort, I'm sure it'll take more than hour to walk through it.
We pressed on to Jebel Shams instead.
The signages for Jebel Shams are quite clear, so you can't really miss the junction to turn into the mountains. Just a few minutes from the juction, you are greeted by the majestic mountains of the Jebel Al-Akhdar range. I dont know if it was the weather or if it was the region, but the air here was very clear and cool. The view of mountains and more mountains were fascinating to us who have seen nothing but piles and piles of sand in Saudi. Some parts of mountain range have deep gashes in it , as if God had traced a finger through it, and in these valleys you could see some vegetation. It was really amazing to see how plants could survive in the rocky terrain that was seemingly barren.

On the way up we reached WadiGhul, which looked like a dry river bed, but with a very fertile plantation nearby, you could imagine the water flowing through in the wetter seasons. On one of the cliffs, clung the brick (rock?) houses of the town of Misfah (i assumed). As you can see from the picture below, it is quite a spectacular sight to see these houses on the steep cliff, with the lush date and herb plantation right below it.

We stopped for pictures and was greeted by 3 boys who were selling key chains made of braided colourful wool yarns. We politely said "La, Shukran" (No, Thankyou) and the boys respectfully stepped away but still watched us take pictures. They were barefooted and looked no more than 10 years old and were really fascinated with Izani. I asked for a picture and they obliged, and Taufik gave them all the change we had in the car. One of them offered a keychain, but we didnt take it, hoping the next tourist would buy it from them.

We saw some people in 4WD inside the wadi, and some people hiking, and I'm sure it would be really nice to be able to do that, but unfortunately, we did not have time to do that :P
We drove on towards Jebel Sham (Another half an hour according to the signs) along ascending road that snaked up the mountain.

For a place that looked remote and barren, the road up to Jebel Sham is quite liveable, as evident by the number of houses we passed by. I am guessing most of them raise goats, because I saw several houses with pens, and several people walking with what looked like goat feed balanced on their heads. We even passed by some people picnicking among the rocks and trees in one of the valleys.
When the road started to look very steep, we decided to turn back, because our friend's car is not a 4WD. Our car was a little delayed because Taufik slowed down to let a boy cross the road to run after his soccer ball.
Taufik stopped by the soccer 'field' (because there weren't really any grass, just rocks) and I stuck out my head and camera and asked, "mumkin? *points to camera* wahid?" (May I? One?) and they were like "Okay!".
I wanted to take a picture of them playing football, but the boy who had chased after the ball excitedly called out "Sabr! Sabr!" (Patience! or Wait!) and that gave them time to assemble and pose. :D

I gave them a thumbs up and a "Shukran!" and hurried off to catch up with our friend. As we drove off, one of the boys yelled "Barcelona!" and I just raised my hand in acknowledgement, because .. er.. I dont really watch professional football :P
Taufik stopped for another time to take a picture of this handsome fella:

Aparrently, this is one of the many wild mountains goats that roam freely in this area.

We reluctantly left the road to Jebel Shams to head towards Nizwa and onward to Ibra.

To be continued : Ibra


  1. love the candid photos of Izani, locals and goat.

  2. err... is it sultanate of brunei? :-)

  3. cantiknyer.

    sejak tgk Oman dlm amazing race mana ntah ari tuh i always dream of going there...

  4. umm-fi-ard,
    the goats are locals too ;)

    betullll!! sepuloh markah untuk anda!

    it's a really beautiful country.. and so unspoilt.

  5. eh sportingnya bebudak tu, siap soh sabar nak posing lagi! you pun dah kira terror dah minta izin orang kampung untuk ambil gambar, ek??

  6. aiseh baru nak jawab brunei jugak.

    baru nak baca sebab nak tunggu kat rumah for the photos. Nice!