I slept like a rock last night after long hours driving. This was enough to recharge my stamina to tackle Day 2 itinerary. I was so impatient!
Al Ayn Beehive Tombs
Together with the neighbouring sites (Bat, & Al Khutm – not visited), Al Ayn (not to be confused with Al Ain – UAE) forms the most complete collection of settlements and necropolises* from the 3rd millennium B.C. in the world. The tombs in Al Ayn however were quite spectacular, strung out in a long row along a ridge overlooking the wadi. Wadi is the Arabic term traditionally referring to a valley. In some cases, it may refer to a dry (ephemeral) riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain or simply an intermittent stream.
We traced back a road than links Ibri to Bahla to reach Al Ayn. We drove this road a night before. Unlike last night, we could see clearly the road condition and its rewarding scenery. Along the road, construction is undergoing to expand it into a highway. I don’t think it’s gonna finish within a year though.
There are two turnoffs to Al Ayn from Ibri – Bahla road. Each one is closer to either Ibri or Jibreen although eventually they are mingled at Al Amla into one leading road to Al Ayn and Wadi Damm. The turnofss are located approximately 40km from either side. From here Jibreen side turnoff, the tomb is about 22km through a single carriageway, and can be easily identified once we approach Al Ayn by a long row of tombs with impressive backdrop of Jabal Misht (or called Comb Mountain).
If you have time, a trip to Wadi Damm, 12km further down the road and 30-40 minutes walk, may be worthy to see pools and do hiking.
Al Ayn Tombs: N 23°12’58.0″ E056°57’43.0″
Turnoff Jibreen side: N 23 01’10” E56 55’32”
Turnoff Ibri Side: N 23°05’14.0″ E056°49’12.0″
Reference: World Heritage Convention: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/434/
*Necropolis: (Greek plural: necropoleis; Latin plural: necropoles) is a large cemetery or burial ground, usually including structural tombs. The term comes from the Greek νεκρόπολις – nekropolis, literally meaning “city of the dead”.
Jabreen Castle lies 20km from Bahla or 4km south of Jibreen Hotel. From Ibri – Bahla road, Jibreen (Hotel) Intersection, follow southwardly passing a roundabout that gives an access to a highway to Nizwa. After about 4km from Jibreen Intersection, turn right at the next roundabout.
Jabreen Castle was built primarily by Imam Bil’arab bin Sultan Al Ya’rubi around 1670AD when he moved his capital from Nizwa to Jabreen. Imam Bil’arab died at Jabreen in approximately 1692 and found eternal rest in a tomb inside the castle. Muhammad bin Nasr Al-Ghafiri resumed building activities made alterations in the castle in 18th century AD. Jabreen Castle was restored between 1979 and 1983 by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture.
This castle was a beautiful palace for the Immam and his family and a bastion during wartime. It was also a beacon of education and contained many study rooms. The palace is a large rectangular building consisting of five floors and containing 55 rooms. A Falaj runs through the middle of the castle. This castle is distinguished by the inscriptions and frescoes that adorn its rooms. The castle’s ceilings are decorated with paintings and Islamic-era style inscriptions, and its doors are beautifully carved. All these architectural details make Jabreen Castle an authentic expression of Omani craftsmanship. Jabreen Castle is divided into two parts: the first rises for sixteen metres and consists of two storeys, whereas the second part rises to twenty-two metres and consists of three storeys. The castle’s rooms are divided between these two sections. The most beautiful and unique of these rooms are:
The Sun and Moon Room: This was the room where the Immam met important visitors for discussions and consultations. What distinguishes this room are those icons and beautiful Islamic calligraphy adorning its ceiling, particularly the eye drawing. It contains 14 windows, seven of which are located at the top near the ceiling and seven are at the bottom. Here lies the secret of the room’s cool atmosphere throughout the year, as when cold air enters from the lower windows, it expels the warm air from the top windows
Immam Protection Room: Another distinctive room in this palace. This room was built in a way that allows the Immam’s soldiers to hide underneath it for his protection when he wished to meet with any person he did not trust. There are four secret hideouts under the room connecting with each other
Coordinate: N 22°54’54.0″ E057°14’56.0″.
Admission: 500 baisas per adult. children free.
Nizwa – Falaj Daris
From Jabreen Castle, we were heading to Nizwa through a 32km-highway. Our plan was to visit Nizwa Fort, pack a lunch from Nizwa before heading to Wadi Nakhur and Jebel Shams. Not much changes to Nizwa since we visited the town 4 years ago although 3-5 km before Nizwa city center, I saw many more commercial centers sprung up than I saw in 2009. If you plan to pack a lunch from Nizwa it’s better to have it in here than in Nizwa city center, which is basically the old part of town. We parked at a one-way street beside Nizwa Souq and walked to this 17th century fort. We soon realized we took a wrong direction and happily abandoned the plan to look inside; and took pictures from outside instead. We went into Nizwa Souq back in 2009 and found it was very interesting to see many examples of the local silversmiths’ art, especially engraved khanjars, or of the local pottery.
Finished packing our lunch at one of traditional restaurants overlooking Nizwa Souq, large yard and Nizwa Fort backdrop, we decided to have our lunch in Falaj Daris, at outskirt of Nizwa, 6.5km app. from the Book Roundabout. Falaj Daris is basically a garden park or picnic site by the wadi with playground, small cafeteria and many gazeboos and grassy lawn. Nothing special though.
Nizwa Fort: N 22°55’59.0″ E057°31’47.0″
Nizwa Souq: N 22°55’56.0″ E057°31’55.0″
Book Roundabout: N 22°56’11.7″ E057°31’50.3″
Falaj Daris: N 22°58’17.7″ E057°32’56.6″
Al Hoota Cave
Check before heading to this cave. At the time of our visit, the cave was still under renovation/maintenance. The status is rarely or if not never informed on their website (http://www.alhootacave.com/) so it’s better to check directly by send them an email or phone them.
Otherwise, the cave offers unique experiences of visiting over 2 million years old stalagtites and stalagmites, underground lakes and its rare blind fish.
Al Hoota Cave Car Park: N 23°04’52.0″ E057°21’01.0″
Wadi Nakhr gorge
The start of Wadi Nakhr track is located about 9.7km from Shell Petrol Station at Al Hamra roundabout. As the road branches to the graded track in Wadi Ghul, one may look into to two contrasting worlds. On the left is the old stone houses on the hill side (blend in rather well with the background scenery) whereas separated by wadi is the new modern houses. I was busy taking pictures of old houses when two young Omani boys got off from a minivan. Seems like they are schoolboys. Our eyes followed them closely; walking down to wadi, crossing the wadi, splitting to different paths to their home. We saluted them for their perseverance to study.
We continued our drive into the entrance of Wadi Nakhr. This was our first wadi drive and we’re wowed by the contrast scenery, and by a narrow and imposing opening to the Grand Canyon. A rough graded track then continued its route climbing hairpinly through the village of Al Hijr. After this ascending drive I took a brief break to enjoy the wadi as two village girls approaching our car trying to sell a piece of rug knot. The area is well-known for the high concentration of rug weavers. They were kind enough to share their smiles.
After passing this village, the walls of the canyon become narrower and soaring higher above us. The road also becomes rocky in part and steep. We didn’t continue until the end of wadi and decided to go back and continue tarmac road to Jebel Shams summit view point.
Wadi Nakhr Entrance: N 23°08’57.0″ E057°12’17.5″
Jebel Shams (view point)
Jebel Shams (mountain of sun) is the highest mountain in the country, with peak elevation ranging from 2,980m to 3,075m. It is a part of Al Hajar Mountain range.
Jebel Shams view point is located approximately 39km from Shell Petrol Station, Al Hamra and can be reached between 30-45 minutes. The road to the top is mainly tarmac road (32km) which interspersed by a 7km graded track before the last 5km. The road is quite as we climbed up. We passed a water truck running at a snail pace that we jokingly bet that we would meet it again on our way down. And that’s true! When we finished our trip to the view point for an hour or so we met the same truck. The driver looked powerless as if he said no matter how hard I pressed the gas it won’t run faster than this.
The view point itself is located about a km before Jebel Shams Resort. Look out for a GSM tower and small building below it. From this view point that barricaded with strong wire fences, we can see Jebel Shams peak, Grand Canyon and further down some villages at Al Hamra areas. In addition to Jebel Shams resort we saw a new hotel under construction – Jebel Shams Heights – that will provide an alternative for a popular resort. The resort is a good base if you plan to do trekking. Otherwise I’d suggest that you have a day trip and make a base in Al Hamra or Nizwa.
Jebel Shams View Point: 23 12’47″N 57 12’14.5″E. Elevation: 2021m
Jebel Shams Resort: 23 12’29″N 57 11’53″E
We descended from elevation of 2,000m and leisurely drove back to Al Hamra to go to Misfat Al Abryeen. Here lies one of the most prettiest traditional villages in Oman. Our hotel is located inside this mountainside village.
Next: Misfat Al Abryeen, Bahla Fort, Wahiba Sand and Ras Al Jinz.