Tuesday, 5 December 2017

National Day and the Prophets birthday

Jabreen Castle

This weekend just gone was a 5 day weekend, two days for National Day celebrations (which was the 18th) and one day for the prophets birthday. Given that we are coming to the end of our time in Oman we decided to stay in-country and do some touring.  Over the weekend we spent a lot of time looking up!

Qu'ran reader at the castle
Assorted pots

After having Friday as a down day and preparing things we packed early Saturday morning and hit the road. First stop was Jabreen, a place we'd been meaning to visit but never quite got to. We would plan to combine it with a visit to Bahla, but every time we went to Bahla there was the fort, the souq and the potters - meaning that by the time we'd finished in Bahla it was too late to go to Jabreen.

And this time we hadn't actually planned to go there, took a wrong turn at Nizwa, saw a castle just off the highway and.................  Lovely place Jabreen castle, a bit different from other one's we have seen, but like many in this part of Oman the chief was the local Imam. Jabreen ran to 3 levels with a fourth on top that hasn't been fully restored. It is well worth a visit as the ceiling decorations are quite stunning and some of the things scattered through the castle are quite interesting.

Just one of the spectacular cielings
So after around 2 hours we drove straight on through Bahla, out the other side and up into the Western Hajar Mountains. We were looking for a small village called Qiyut where there are some walks in to the Ras Al Mikhaybiyah (kind of a grand canyon). By the time we got to the end of the road, a little past Qiyut, lunch time (but not lunch) had well and truly come and gone. SO first things first we pulled up and lunched overlooking a deserted village and the canyon. Excellent views and absolute solitude. Must admit I was buzzing a little as the drive up was on some fabulous roads. Dirt roads, with climbs, dips and interesting corners. I had a hoot, Katrina may have been creating new indentations in the passenger side grab handle on the odd occasion.

Anyway after lunch we realised it was all too late for walking, so the next order of business was to find a camping spot. Hmm where to choose? Spoilt for choice really, we ended up finding an isolated place where we couldn't be seen from the road, but had a marvelous vista. Didn't take long to set the camp site up and get dinner barbequing.

Lunch in the mountains
Abandoned village
Panorama of a panoramic campsite
It was a Super Moon!
The honey shop complete with hives
The view from the tea shop
Looking up at some ruins in Abriyyin
Day 2 started slowly, coz well, those views. Anyway we packed and headed off to the village of Misfat Al Abriyyin. This little village is built into the side of the mountains, the main village is at least 400 years old and there is a 1500 year old Persian fort on the hilltop above the village. Rogan castle. Talk about picturesque! First stop there was the honey stall, overlooking the wadi, along which the village is built. All the farming is done on terraces built up and leveled out over centuries. All of this is fed by falaj's. We had a great time wandering the old village and exploring up the wadi. Unfortunately we were a bit too leg weary to make it to the castle ruins. By the time we'd finished in the village the choice was stop for lunch or get the skates on and head into the mountains again as we were heading towards Wadi Bani Awf.

Part of the village
The Falaj at work delivering water
Camp 2 
More great driving was en-train - Took a while to get to the jump off point. We've done this road before, just in the opposite direction. The start is an incredibly steep descent, which I did mostly in first gear. It took us around 2 hours to do the 12 kilometers to find a camp site. A few hundred meters into the descent a local Omani flagged us down and begged a lift. As the car was full of camping gear he was happy to jump on the running board. So he rode along for about a K as we followed some guy in an absolutely packed to the gills Hyundai Sportage. He had no business being there and he had to ride the brakes full time. The Omani guy had parked his ute on the first flatspot, so the guy in the Hyundai stopped there to let his brakes cool off.
The morning after the night of rain

We kept going and eventually found a campsite in the wadi adjoining the entrance to Snake Gully. As the entire afternoon had been accompanied by grey clouds all afternoon we camped on an abandoned farming terrace, with a 360 degree backdrop of magnificent mountains and immediately behind the campsite, was another abandoned village. Setting up camp took a little while, so it was getting close to dusk by the time things were set and dinner was on cooking.  And then our "friend" in the Hyundai came through with a toot and a wave.
Entrance to snake gully

Snake Gully

No sooner had we set up than the clouds delivered  - rain! The first we'd seen in Oman this year! It rained on and off throughout the night. But the morning dawned clear and dry and again slow. No rush, so what the hey.

After breakfast I wandered off and went into the start of Snake Gully. Being alone I went in for about 10 minutes and retreated before the going got tough. But wow, almost vertical rock walls, absolutely stunning.

Then it was time to pack down and head back to Muscat. We were home early afternoon having had a great time exploring more of Oman. The rest of Monday was spent dealing with the camping gear and then an early night. Old legs crap out a bit earlier than young ones!

Today (Tuesday) was the last day of the weekend, spent around the house with chores and shopping. But the weekend was rounded out with a dusk walk along the beach.  Time for one last surprise as 5 wadi dogs decided that Katrina needed an escort along the beach. So they kept us company for a couple of kilometers. They were quite gentle and friendly, gambolling around with each other, racing off to check out this and that, splashing in the waves and coming back to check up on us and sniff hands, feet and legs. One by one they dropped away and in the end one last dog walked us to the gate. 

An escort of Wadi Dogs

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