Rugged mountains, smooth winding roads, chilly breeze and a Land Cruiser Prado to boot - The ride to Jebel Shams was an adventure in every way. Located about 2-3 hours by road from Muscat - the capital of Sultanate of Oman and an hour away from the town of Nizwa, Jebel Shams (Sun Mountain) is the tallest point in the Hajar Mountains and at a height of more than 3000m. It is regarded as the tallest point in eastern Arabia. The beautiful village of Al Hamra stands at the base of this mountain peak.
Though its said that the journey is more important than the destination, in the case of Jebel Shams, both the journey to the top and the views from the top are nothing short of spectacular. As our driver cum guide Majid drove up the winding roads, we observed that the temperature fell from around 30 degrees to just about 12 degrees.
In a matter of about 25 minutes, the heat was replaced by chilly winds hitting all our faces.The Grand Canyon of Arabia
We stopped at the so called Arabian Grand Canyon on the way to the Jebel Shams resort. The canyon is so deep that we were actually quite nervous to go up till the ledge to click pictures of the surroundings all around. The secluded nature of this place makes it even more exciting for an adventure traveler.The iron railing from where one can do the Titanic pose!
Thankfully, there is a railing to hold on while we attempt to look down below. The rock formations in the rugged mountains are so amazing that one can visualize all these mountains submerged under water millions of years ago. And when they became rocky outcrops, the formations left behind leave you in complete awe.
When it rains, the water gushes down the ravines into the Wadi Ghul below. It's a small uninhabited village. The Just as we got out of the car, we saw a few stalls where women were selling small stuff which they had weaved from their own hands. Other than this, there is literally no sign of life till we reach the resort.
The resort has various kinds of rooms from tents to chalets. We were lucky to get the sunset chalet. It's called so because it offers the best view of the sunset across the valleys and the mountains in the distance. Beautiful is an understatement to describe the surroundings as well as the sunset.
The room was pretty well organized with two single beds and matching linen, a small sofa for two and a TV. Overall, a really small little cozy place to stay.
For those expecting room service 24X7, there maybe some disappointment in store since there is just one shop selling basic foodstuff and not really any specific room service. Since we were put up there just for a night, this didn't really bother us too much.
The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner at fixed time slots. Though we weren't there for lunch, the spread during breakfast and dinner was quite extensive and delicious at the same time with a great assortment of vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes.
And the number of people we saw around was quite surprising. When we had checked in, it all seemed so quiet and we presumed that the resort was empty. But we couldn't be more wrong seeing the activity during the breakfast and dinner times.
There are some other interesting activities like mountain biking, swimming and even trekking which are all quite popular at the hotel.
While I didn't have the courage to take the plunge into the water at such chilly temperatures (around 7-8 degrees early morning), we didn't really have the time for the other two activities considering our packed itinerary prepared by the Ministry of Tourism. The Wi-Fi is really slow and works properly only at the dinner area and the reception. Therefore it would be a great idea to inform your loved ones accordingly before you arrive.
As the night grew older, it started to get even more chilly and one needed more than one sweater to keep warm. We got up for the sunrise and though it was really cold making our hands go numb, taking lovely shots of the rising sun gave us a totally different feeling altogether.
Pic courtesy: Manjulika
As we set out on our journey back after a sumptuous breakfast, all we could remember was the beautiful rugged landscapes, fantastic roads and the lovely weather all through.
The journey downhill is even more dangerous since using brakes continuously would result in overheating causing the brakes to fail. Therefore, a low gear must be used while driving down.
This is a place like no other in the Middle East. A must see for everyone!
Tip: Yes, one can go to Jebel Shams in your own vehicle even if it's a saloon car. But for those who aren't comfortable in driving all the way up or downhill on their own, would recommend to go via a tour operator who would use a 4WD. While most of the road is paved, there are some parts which are off - track.
Note: This experience is part of the 5 day trip organized for three bloggers by Ministry of Tourism, Oman & Indiblogger from 25th October to 30th October 2014.