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Wadi Bani Khalid pools and Wahiba Sands

Natural Pool

Wednesday

We started the day after breakfast with an hour at hotel pool – for swimming and tanning. We also walked at the beach. There found there lot of corals, shells and beautiful rocks.

We drove to the corniche of the ancient seafaring town of Sur. Sur was famous for boat building in 19th and 20th centuries throughout Arabia. Today Sur does not produce vessels in the big quantities, but dhow building still takes place there. We did not see the building in boatyard, but many beautiful ships were in the harbor.

In Sur we needed to tank the fuel. We have heard that the gasoline is cheap in this part of the World, but the price was still far below our expectations – 114 baisa (22 EURO cents) per liter. We also bought some bottles of water – 200 baisa for 1,5 litre, so the liter of bottled water is more expensive than gasoline.
Wadi Bani Khalid

First destination of the day was Wadi Bani Khalid.

A wadi (Arabic: وادي‎) is a dry riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain.

Wadi Bani Khalid is famous for its natural beauty. After turning right from Sur-Muscat inland road (about 105km from Sur) zigzag roads took us to the mountains, the whole 30 km drive offered us spectacular views to the surrounding mountains, villages and palm groves.

From Oman Off-road Explorer book we took two suggestions to follow – to see the waterfall and to swim in the natural pools. We did not find the waterfall, may be it was too try season. Instead of that we enjoyed spectacular views on wadi and mountains, also saw the village life at the shores of wadi.

With natural pools we were lucky. This was definitely one of the highlight of the whole Oman trip. From Mizayra village the signs also showed the directions to the swimming pools. We parked the car and walked (about 5 minutes) to the pools – this view was amazing – several large natural pools with clear fresh water. At that hot day (+35degrees Celsius) this was a heaven. Many locals also used the opportunity to swim there. There are no beach facilities – changing rooms etc, but the swimming can not be more perfect. We saw several local having a picnic and swimming there. We relaxed there for a hour and really enjoyed the experience.

We headed towards Nizwa and planned to visit also Wahiba sands as it was only few kilometers from the road. At Al Minatrib we turned to the left and after five kilometers it was only sand dunes and large open space. The dunes are uniform in height, at 100 meters from trough to peak. The area of Wahiba sand measures 80 km from east to west and 180 km from north to south.

We did not plan to spend much time here but this was a mistake. Wahiba sands is definitely something that should be must see in Oman and everybody must take time for that. We decided that we at least try to drive on dunes. After first dune we were a little bit stuck. The local Arab drove to us and offered help. He also suggested that he can be a guide for us indriving 3 or 5 km in Wahiba Sands. We refused. Then he made a proposal to drive about 1 km and drink coffee with Bedouin. This sounded affordable for us.
Wahiba Sands girl
We drove to is home where he lives with his wife and five kids. He asked to enter the tent and his wife served the coffee and some Bedouin sweets (from dates) to taste. We had a very pleasant conversation about their life in the desert. Afterwards the kids brought the bag with souvenirs for sale. We bought some. Then the Bedouin offered a camel ride and also a possibility to sleep there. We agreed on camel ride but declined the sleeping at their home.

The camel ride was interesting experience. Although short, it was pleasant and the camel skin felt warm and soft. Bedouin children looked happy, wealthy and friendly. We really felt as good friends at their home.

Later we regret that we did decline the opportunity to sleep in the desert. We drove to Nizwa and found cheap and nice hotel near by – Safari Hotel in Firq, just 10 km from Nizwa center. The hotel had also a pool.

We had a dinner at Arab World Restaurant (at the Muscat Nizwa highway, near Tanuf Residency). It was a popular place, the food was again good and the cost for dinner for four people (main course, water and fresh juice cocktails) was 10 OMR (20EUR).

Just before going to dinner we had an accident. At the Muscat-Nizwa highway, just few kilometers before center of Nizwa, the road is in three, we thought that there is two roads to one directions and two to an other but this was different. We tried to make an u-turn, and appeared on two-directions road and we did not notice a car coming from left. We grazed the Toyota Avensis car. Avensis stopped and so did we. We were quite worried about the incident. The driver did not speak English. The situation was quite scary. Fortunately the other car had only rubber stripes at the rear door.
Wahiba Sands tent
The driver of Toyota Avensis called to somebody who appeared to be an owner of the car. We explained the situation and offered a cash compensation for the accident. The owner said that he does not want anything if it is only rubber stripes. We agreed to call him three hours later that he can check the car.

That time we used for lunch, checking the hotel and going to Golden Tulip hotel for a beer. It is quite difficult with beer in Oman. In supermarket (Lulu, Carrefour) you can only buy alcohol-free beer. "Proper" beer is sold only in international hotels and bigger restaurants (we did not try this option). This night we definitely needed a beer an therefore we drove about 10 km to Golden Tulip Nizwa, about 10 km from Safari Hotel. We ordered two bears in the garden. As we were with a car and we wanted to take the beers with us, we asked the waiter open only one can. They are not allowed to sell the beer for take-away. During the second order we also made a telephone call to the owner of ToyotaAvensis. The owner said that he agrees that this is only rubber dust and “I do not want anything from you, my brother”.

This day was full of only very positive memories from Oman.