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The Wonderful Wadis of Oman's 'Vertical Desert'

The Wonderful Wadis of Oman's 'Vertical Desert'

When we speak of deserts, we are immediately struck with an image of a world of rolling sand dunes and expansive horizontal spaces that stretch for kilometers. That said, the desert landscape of Oman also features canyons and soaring limestone cliffs. The locals refer to the canyons as ‘wadis’, which are also a safe haven for wildlife during summer. Here, you can find several varieties of wildflowers and small animals including cicadas and toads. Therefore, take a hike or drive up the Hajar Mountains, there are several prehistoric petroglyphs, old villages, and ancient cave-dwelling sites that you can explore. To give an overview of some of the most popular tourist destinations in Oman, here are some of the most prominent "wadis". Take a look

Wadi Mistal

Located near the town of Nakhal, Wadi Mistal is the trailhead of one of the most impressive hikes in the Hajar Mountains. Moreover, this seemingly barren vista of the plateau is home to the ancient village of Wakan. While taking a walk here, you will have to traverse along an unpaved track from the Wadi to Wakan that boasts of a hillside full of wild lavenders, thistles, wild juniper, and olive shrubberies. That said, you will fall in love with the exquisite views of the Al Ghubra Bowl, which is a top tourist attraction in Oman.

Wadi Bani Kharus

Easily accessed from Al Awabi, the fort-town, Wadi Bani Kharus is often overlooked by casual visitors. The wadi, however, hides a truly distinctive geographical feature of a 'classic unconformity'. Geologists describe this formation as a 300 million-years-old gap (or hiatus) in the striations of rock. Features such as this help support theories pertaining to the tectonic plates’ movement. Moreover, the wadi also features petroglyphs, a rock-face depicting water-weathered sediment of glacial origin (or tillite), and a wall of malodorous rocks.

Wadi Bani Awf

One of the most sensational mid-morning views of the Oman desert is seen at Wadi Bani Awf. It is at this time of the day that the sun suddenly rises from behind the limestone rock face and above the rocky cliffs. It seems as if the subterranean gloom dispels entirely and the landscape of palms and feathery grass lits up. Moreover, the wadi features the rare Christ-thorn trees and other varieties of palm trees to make a perennial picnic spot and one of the most popular tourist destinations.

Wadi Shab and Wadi Tiwi

Wadi Shab and Wadi Tiwi, both are part of the Eastern Hajar Mountains. These wadis feature a number of caves including the famous Majlis Al Jinn, which ranks among the most expansive caverns in the world. These caves also have ecological importance because rainwater seeps through these systems before reappearing as spring water. Wadi Shab generally considered as the prettiest of the three wadis. The wadi features multiple translucent pools full of turquoise water, kingfishers, and herons; therefore, an ideal spot for nature lovers who can access this ecosystem only on foot. The neighboring Wadi Tiwi is home to tranquil oasis’, wild oleander, and tall grasses. Likewise, there are a number of villages that boast of pretty waterfalls through corn and alfalfa fields and date plantations.

(All photographs are courtesy of the original owners unless otherwise indicated)

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