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Oman: Jebel Shams Grand Canyon

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Jebel Shams Grand Canyon | Oman | Asia

[Visited: April 2011]

Driving west from Al Hamra, we first came across the old and new town of Ghul, which also marks the narrow entrance to Wadi Nakhr. The old town with its stone houses looked abandoned from a distance; but we decided to head for the big mountain of Jebel Shams straightaway. Driving up a road in perfect condition, which only turned into a more challenging track much higher up the mountain. Driving was still relatively easy, and when we had reached a kind of plateau, we edged closer to the rim for a view. And what a view we got! A breathtaking peek into the space below us, with a spectacular drop of around 1,500m and a gorge below us that had been carved out of Jebel Shams over time. We could see a path below us, and knew it was the one we were about to hike. But before continuing, we just stood there, and soaked in the fantastic views.

Picture of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon (Oman): View from the terraces of Sap Bani Khamis

We drove to the very end of the road at Al-Khateem, parked our car, took all the water we had with us, and passed the souvenir sellers before walking to the rim of the canyon below us. From here, a clearly marked trail lead down, along the rim of the Grand Canyon, and we stopped frequently to marvel at the impressive display of nature below us. At an open space right on the edge, littered with small and large cairns, we built our own before continuing further down. Every turn we made, provided with a new view of the Grand Canyon and the summit of Jebel Shams, or Mountain of the Sun, below and above us. At a certain point, we saw a huge natural arch in the rockface ahead of us, and also noticed that occasionally, there must be a waterfall coming all the way down from above to plunge over this arch into the abyss below. I fantasized what a staggering sight that must be.

Picture of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon (Oman): Track inside narrow Wadi Nakhr with its steep walls

We were walking under the shelter of a rocky ceiling sometimes, and noticed fallen rocks everywhere - it was inevitable that this vast canyon wall was crumbling over time. Indeed, we saw some huge flakes broken off the vertical face of the canyon, and hoped that the walls would not lose any parts today. When we reached the abandoned village of Sap Bani Khamis, we could not see how to continue along the rim of the Grand Canyon. Instead, we walked to the far end, and sat down for a well-deserved lunch. The views over the magnificent Grand Canyon were superb from here, and we thoroughly enjoyed this lunch with a view. Large birds of prey were circling in the air of the Grand Canyon when we started out on our way back up, which went fast. It allowed us just enough time to drive back and inside Wadi Nakhr, another dramatically narrow gorge which, once you reach a wider part near the small village of Nakhr, the sheer height of the 1,500m walls around you makes you feel dazzled. After the views of the Grand Canyon from above, seeing the same canyon from its lowest point made our excursion complete and while I negotiated the tricky trail back to the main road, I felt very satisfied with our visit to Jebel Shams.

Picture of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon (Oman): Several stone dwellings at Sap Bani Khamis
Picture of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon (Oman): Impressively tall, this is one of the walls of the Grand Canyon
Picture of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon (Oman): Wadi Nakhr seen from above
Picture of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon (Oman): Terraces and date palm trees with abandoned stone houses of Ghul
Picture of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon (Oman): Trail along the rim of the Grand Canyon
Picture of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon (Oman): Steep walls of Wadi Nakhr
Picture of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon (Oman): View over the Grand Canyon from the rim
Picture of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon (Oman): Path through the rocks and stones alongside the rim of the Grand Canyon
Picture of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon (Oman): Natural arch in the wall of the Grand Canyon
Picture of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon (Oman): Terraces right on the rim of the Grand Canyon at Sap Bani Khamis
Picture of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon (Oman): Stone tower overlooking the Grand Canyon
Picture of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon (Oman): Rocks and trees in the bed of Wadi Nakhr
Picture of Jebel Shams Grand Canyon (Oman): Rocky towers in Wadi Nakhr

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