Offroad Oman 2013: Day 3 – Misfat Al Abryeen – Bahla – Wahiba – Ras Al Jinz

Misfat Al Abryeen. See how pretty the village is. (Photo: Helly Purwanto)
Misfat Al Abryeen. See how pretty the village is. (Photo: Helly Purwanto)

….a day before…

We arrived at the small parking area at the edge of the village of Misfat Al Abryeen at around 4.30pm to check-in into Misfah Old House. This is located about 8.7km from Shell Petrol Station, Al Hamra through switchbacks. The village itself is set above terraced plantations of date palms in stunning landscape of rugged mountain.

On the instruction that sent by Misfah Old House Hotel we were advised to check in before 5pm or before dark and to contact  them at least 30min before arrival for escort. For a good reason. The hotel is located deep down (though only 5 minutes walk) into the village with no directions. It is no way for the first timer to reach the hotel without their guide. It gets very dark at night and can be quite dangerous for navigating flights of steps.

From the parking area, we only see a single street.  Soon, the road ends and the rest are a cool maze of meandering lanes, gateways, covered passageways and flights of steps, until sooner or later comes to a falaj or plantation area. Just before the parking area, you will see the below sign; reminding visitors not to take their car into the village. The end of the road is however only 170m from the parking area.

Please respect the village!
Please respect the village!
The road soon ends after this point. On the right is visitor information center. Visitors dragging their luggage to check-in to Misfah Old House can also be seen
The road soon ends after this point. On the right is visitor information center. Visitors dragging their luggage to check-in to Misfah Old House can also be seen
Map and Visitor Information of Misfat Al Abryeen
Map and Visitor Information of Misfat Al Abryeen
Misfat Al Abryeen
Misfat Al Abryeen
Check-in in style through meandering alleys
Check-in in style through meandering alleys
Entering into covered passageway
Entering into covered passageway
End of road in Misfat Al Abryeen
End of road in Misfat Al Abryeen
Visitor Center at Misfat Al Abryeen
Visitor Center at Misfat Al Abryeen
So..this is the hotel: Misfah Old House
So..this is the hotel: Misfah Old House
Arrived at Misfah Old House. Welcomed with qahwa and dates in the reception balcony overlooking plantation
Arrived at Misfah Old House. Welcomed with qahwa and dates in the reception balcony overlooking plantation
Our room in Misfah Old Hotel. No TV. No Furnitures.
Our room in Misfah Old Hotel. No TV. No Furnitures.
A roof-top balcony - above our room - overlooking plantation
A roof-top balcony – above our room – overlooking plantation
Locking the old way, using padlock and key :)
Locking the old way, using padlock and key 🙂
Meet Mohammed, one of the excellent staffs in Misfah Old House
Meet Mohammed, one of the excellent staffs in Misfah Old House
Dinner at roof top - Misfah Old House
Dinner at roof top – Misfah Old House

Misfat Al Abryeen

Misfah Old House is ex-abandoned houses converted into a hotel only about 2 years ago. The owner, now resides in Australia, renovated these houses; turned a veranda into a  reception room, fitted AC, and constructed a restaurant and balcony on roof top overlooking plantation and falaj. The result is a basic, rustic Omani style hotel. The conversion is not without controversy as the local villagers expressed concerns about commercialization, culture intrusion as well as lost of privacy.

In the morning, we made a short trekking tour around the village by following already established trekking paths (marked by a red-white-yellow band painted on intervals on stones). The path behind the hotel will lead you to eventually a gorge while the opposite path leads back to the village, bath areas, and a view point. Along the paths is one of the most intricate falaj network in Oman that snakes around the plantation.

Misfat Al Abryeen Car Park: N 23°08’26.0″ E057°18’38.0″

Misfah Old House: N 23°08’24.1″ E057°18’44.9″

Misfat Al Abryeen
Misfat Al Abryeen
Morning trekking in Misfat Al Abryeen
Morning trekking in Misfat Al Abryeen
One of the prettiest village in Oman
One of the prettiest village in Oman
Falaj network in Misfat Al Abryeen. Don't be surprised to see clothes on falaj. They are meant to stop water flow
Falaj network in Misfat Al Abryeen. Don’t be surprised to see clothes on falaj. They are meant to stop water flow
Another view in Misfat Al Abryeen
Another view in Misfat Al Abryeen
Lush plantation and rocky mountain
Lush plantation and rocky mountain
View from Star View Point
View from Star View Point

Al Hamra – Wahiba Sands

After a simple breakfast at Misfah Old House, we started hitting the road; leaving Al Hamra and Ad Dakhiliyah region to go to Ash Sharqiyah region (literally means Eastern Area). We stopped by at a medium supermarket opposite Shell Petrol Station and greeted by and caught in a conversation with turned out to be ex-Doha resident.

Al Hamra seen from road to Misfat
Al Hamra seen from road to Misfat

The route to Wahiba (Ash Sharqiyah region) from Al Hamra follows Nizwa – Bahla road (Road 21), turns left at Jibreen Intersection to enter Jibreen-Nizwa Highway (Road 15) and continues until Izki to turn right to Road 33 (to Sinaw). There is a shortcut road (rather than through Sinaw) about 27km before the town that links to Road 27. And finally driving a road that links to Road 23 (Ibra) and follows southwardly to Wahiba Sands.

We stopped by very briefly at Bahla Fort. Bahla Fort is one of four historic fortresses situated at the foot of the Djebel Akhdar highlands in Oman. It was built in the 13th and 14th centuries, when the oasis of Bahla was prosperous under the control of the Banu Nebhan tribe.

Bahla Fort
Bahla Fort

Wahiba Sands (or the road signs show as Ash Sharqiyah Sands) is basically a region of desert named for the Wahiba tribe. The area is defined by a boundary of 180 kilometers north to south and 80 kilometers east to west. Wahiba to Oman is what Inland Sea is to Qatar. We didn’t venture out deep into Wahiba Sands – it’s quite hot at that time amidst still in early April.

Several desert camps offer desert stay experiences, 7km up to 20km into the desert, such as  Al Areesh Camp, Desert Nights, Nomadic, and Al Raha Camp. The desert can also be accessed through several villages dotted along Ibra – Al Kamil road such as Al Wasil, Al Mintarib or  Al Ghabbi. The most popular turnoff is Al Mintarib.

Wadi Bani Khalid, located 25km from main road from Wahiba to Sur, can be an option worth visiting if you have time. The area is very popular for swimming, wadi hikes and cave exploring.

Bahla Fort: N 22°57’52.0″ E057°18’02.0″

Wahiba Turnoff via Al Mintarib: 22 27’06″N 58 48’41″E

Wadi Bani Khalid Turnoff: 22 39’38″N 58 56’16″E

Wahiba Sands
Wahiba Sands
Wahiba Sands
Wahiba Sands

Ras Al Jinz: Turtle Museum

Ras Al Jinz is home to Turtle Nature Reserve, the main if not the only attraction in here.

One-and-half hour or so driving (125km)  from Wahiba we arrived in Sur, the esternmost major town in Arabian Peninsula. Ras Al Jinz is about 40km further to South South East (SSE). At the T-junction from Sur that leads you to Ras Al Hadd or Ras Al Jinz, turn right and follow the signs. At the signpost for Ras Al Jinz past a GSM tower on your left, take the left turn and drive another 6km to the reserve. You will pass Al Naseem Tourist Camp on your left, 1.5km after your left turn.

The Reserve offers two sessions for turtle watching: 9.30pm and 4.30am. These are designed because of Government rules to limit human disruptions to peak turtle egg-laying period (11pm – 4am). The 9.30pm timing will not allow participant to take photographs/use flashes to avoid making navigation confusion to the turtles. The morning session allows photographing. A unique display of the impact of light to turtles is available in the Museum

We arrived at the reserve around 3pm and made our booking for morning session. No need to pay during this booking except you are given a reference number for later registration. Turtle watching fee otherwise is 3 OR.

The reserve also has an interesting turtle museum – everything about turtles – on its second floor of the building. Fee is 1 OR per adult, children is free. Automatic proximity audio guide – available in multi language of your selection – is really helpful in understanding all displays in the museum. It is said that The Ras Al Jinz beach is world renown for the nesting endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas), probably the most important nesting concentration on the Indian Ocean. This is the only place where the public can watch the nesting process of these amazing sea giants. In the museum don’t forget to test your knowledge on Turtles just at the end of your museum visit. Can turtle breathe underwater?

Ras Al Jinz Turtle Nature Reserve: N 22°25’32.0″ E059°49’38.0″

For reservation please contact:

Tel. +968 96550606 or +968 96550707, Email: reservations@rasaljinz-turtlereserve.com

http://www.rasaljinz-turtlereserve.com/

Acacia Forest (are you kidding?) between Sur and Ras Al Jinz
Acacia Forest (are you kidding?) between Sur and Ras Al Jinz
Road to Ras Al Jinz Turtle Nature Reserve
Road to Ras Al Jinz Turtle Nature Reserve
Fathan at Turtle Museum
Fathan at Turtle Museum
Inside Turtle Museum
Inside Turtle Museum

Next: Turtle Watching, Turtle Beach, Sur, Wadi Tiwi, Sink Hole

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