During the shimmering heat of Muscat summer, the cool canyons and deep blue and sapphire green pools of Al Hajar Mountains are a haven of cool refreshment. In search of some respite from the city heat, residents in Muscat explore the cool wadis which are dotted with water pools, greenery, and some rustic time. For many in Muscat, weekends are time for packing the SUVs and basking in the wadi waters.
One such perfect weekend picnic spot is Wadi Arbaeen off Quriyat in the Eastern Hajar Mountains. The wadi boasts of year-round flowing waters and has ample chance for high adrenaline
junkies for testing their canoeing and rock climbing skills. For the ‘not so adventurous’ type, these deep gorges and natural water pools are the perfect place for picnicking with family.
Wadi Arbaeen has deep gorges, which occasionally see the sun, and the temperature remains at comfortable levels. The wadi is a favourite spot for off-roading and camping fans. The major advantage
being it is only 90 minutes-drive away from Muscat and is filled with tracks for rock-crawling in the 4x4 and dozens of fresh-water pools to dip in.
Take the scenic 80km drive along the Route 17 from Muscat to Sur via Al Amerat. Just after a settlement called Dibab, take a right turn at the ‘Wadi Al Arbaeen 17km’ sign. Keep going straight until the asphalt road ends and you start driving on gravel. Recently
the gravel track has been cut short by extending the asphalt road in a short-cut direction. This is the best route to enjoy the Hajar Mountain and the wadi and you can get out to the main road through the wadi itself making it a circular route. Sometimes you may find it difficult to reach the destination as there are not many road signs.
The stretch of off-road terrain that you need to get through to reach it makes it a great place for adventure, a dip in fresh water pools, and experiencing the serenity of walking through a wadi that is nearly untouched. Before you start, check and mark Google Earth to avoid any confusion.
For off-roading fans, this is an incredibly enjoyable wadi, with lots of rock-crawling and water crossing. We could see an Omani family in a sedan in the wadi bed. Nevertheless, a 4X4 is a good idea for some of the steeper parts of the gravel road. For hikers and trekkers,
the valley is ideal for long walks, but be prepared for a challenge as many of the routes trek through water. On the way you will find herds of goats, Bedouin people, kestrels hovering around, and wild donkeys. It is up to you to what extend you want to explore the wadi.
At the last drivable spot there is a large and deep pool of sapphire water and a small water fall resembling a slide in a water theme park. Beyond that point is a small settlement with small waterfalls around. This is the last point you can drive your vehicle. Utmost care should be taken if you are in a group of kids as these deep pools can be dangerous.
With the sun reaching the bottom of the canyon for a short time of the day, the temperature is noticeably
cooler. “It is always better than your office AC,” says Ryan who is a frequent wadi basher.
We found him on the wadi bed picking up used plastic bottles — the inevitable bits of irresponsible tourism. “How on earth one can dump non-biodegradable waste like this in such green spots? This is actually killing the charm of wadi bashing these days,” he says.
The eastern parts near Wadi Arbaeen are protected areas under the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs and hunting is strictly prohibited. Take the wadi road to exit into the Sur highway while coming back. Wadi Arbaeen
is stunningly beautiful, with pools of picturesque green water and huge boulders. The best thing about this wadi is that it feels genuinely natural and less-visited by tourists. Take with you your food or BBQ there on the banks of the wadi as you have to drive back to Quriyat to find an eatery.
Rock climbing fans used to visit this wadi to test their skills. But there is no trail – you have to choose what you guess to be the best route.
There are many possibilities for spraining or breaking a limb, and not easy to get out. Always go with first aid kits and required gears if you are venturing on to the boulders. Good shoes for climbing rocks are a must.
We can see hikers camped in hammocks on the way up. Some of the pools require lengthy swims in pools the depth of which are unknown in narrow gorges — you should be a decent swimmer. Stand Up Paddling and canoeing
are also possible in Wadi Al Arbaeen, but be sure you are prepared for it.
GPS: 23°03’17.4”N 58°58’58.0”E