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Jebel Shams - The Grand Canyon of Arabia

March 26, 2012 :: Day 4 – Nizwa and Jebel Shams

Our second last day and we got up pretty early so that we could head off early towards Nizwa the old capital of Oman during the 6th and 7th centuries AD.  It was once the center of trade, education, art and religion.  Today, lying at the base of the Western Hajar Mountains, it is the center for date growing and it’s main attraction is the souk and the fort.

After a quick breakfast at the rooftop restaurant of the Mina Hotel overlooking the Mutrah corniche, we headed south and out of Muscat.  We reached Nizwa and walked around the souk.  It seemed more like a tourist attraction than a marketplace where locals would frequent as we bumped into the same people we saw back at the desert camp.  After a bit of walking around and looking at the trinkets and the numerous Khanjars, we headed towards the Nizwa Fort.  It was built in 1668 A.D by Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya’rubi and it is Oman’s most visited national monument.

Nizwa Fort entrance

Nizwa Fort

View of minaret and date palms from the fort.

Again at the suggestion of Yousef, we decided to go further inland towards Jebel Shams (which translates to Mountain of the Sun).  Up until recently, apparently the roads were only accessible with a 4×4 as it was all gravel coupled with tight hairpin bends and a steep incline.  For the most part, we were able to reach about 60% of the way up to the top and all the while, our little car was screaming as we drove up the steep roads with views of the gorges on the one side.  We eventually hit the end of the tarred road and what lay ahead was a winding track of gravel going further into the mountain.  Luckily there as a “4×4 taxi” in front of us and knowing that we would need his services, he flagged us down and offered to take us up to the top and back.

In the end, it was all worth it as we reached the top and saw what is known as the Grand Canyon of Arabia.  Just like the time I saw the Grand Canyon in Arizona, my eyes could not take in enough of what lay out there.  It is just feels too unreal as you look down the cliff, a 1,000 meter drop to the bottom.  I tried to take photos but as usual, you can’t capture the full nature of it and it never comes nearly as close to actually seeing it in real life.  If ever in Oman, this is once place you should not miss out on.

Tarred roads... so far so good

End of the road for our Suzuki but the start to the top of Jebel Shams

The canyons!

Our taxi driver with his buddies.

A little settlement at the bottom of the canyon

Now that is a real 4x4