Ghadir Farras

Hail Al Gawari

June 2009


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Ghadir Farras, or freely translated: the brook of the horses.

The area west of Jabal Shams, high and cool in summer, with surprising conifer woodlands. Hail Al Gawari


Ideal for a hot summer weekend. Cooling off at 2000+ metres. An alternative in the same area is Aqaba Saqba or the plateau below Jabal Shams,  leading to Al Khatum and the magnificent cliff walk to Sap Bani Khamis.

Ghadir Farras, the "brook of the horses" should give you an idyllic feeling and it is exactly that. Idyllic, perhaps no horses but donkeys, not too much water, yet a lot of green and surprising woodlands. In 2009 the area was fenced and the nameplate in front read Hail al Gawari.

The route described below takes you along some magnificent views. Part of this route (beyond the first military gate below Jabal Shams) was closed in the past, but is now open, allowing a nice "tour", ending in a great area to camp at Ghadir Farras. How long Ghadir Farras will remain accessible is unclear. They are building a gate and a wall. Maybe to become a park?
The trees certainly are in need of protection. With the new roads anybody can get up there and within a few years these great woodlands could be totally destroyed by too many people wanting to enjoy its beauty. Therefore a strong plea: if you plan to go there, take only photographs and help to preserve this area by removing all your waste. Do not cut trees to make campfires, not even if the trunk looks dead. Remember, this is all part of a delicate ecosystem and you are just a temporary visitor. Enjoy and care!
Ghadir Farras
How to get there: Note: all coordinates and tracks are with reference to WGS84, UTM zone 40. Take road from Nizwa to Bahla. Zero the odometer at the second roundabout in Nizwa, the one with the piles of books in the middle. Almost 32.5 km in the direction of Bahla you will get to a roundabout near a big Toyota garage and Oman Oil Petrol station where you need to turn right in the direction of Al Hamra. You will pass the rock carvings at Hasat Bin Sult, which are very worthwhile to visit. At the roundabout near the Shell Petrol station in Al Hamra turn left to Ghul and Jabal Shams. Follow the main road all the way up. If you want you can turn left at double signpost "Al Ghubaira" and "Dar Al Aqoor" ( 516789.1E - 2571262.9 N). A more scenic route goes straight. Do not turn into the normal track to the Jabal Shams plateau (signposted Start Tracking Path W4", @ 23 14 22.19 N - 57 11 52.24 E WGS84), Instead go straight and pass through the ex military gate. This route takes you on a round way with some magnificent views. The Google Earth track file (unzip and opens directly in Google Earth if installed on your computer) is linked here.

See also descriptions of visits to Hasat Bin Sult, Ghul, wadi Nakhar Jabal Shams, and Al Khatum / Sap Bani Khamis.

Starting with the tour through the former military gate. The graded road takes you around a 'clippe' of Triassic limestone with at its eastern, as well at its western flank (where the road goes), springs feeding terraced gardens. Water seeps from the porous limestone above downwards until a thick pile of impermeable shales. That's where people have helped nature by digging into the rock just under the spring line, connecting to large basins. It is also clear that these springs have probably had a much stronger flow of water in the past, with thick crusts of travertine draping the rocks. The basin slowly fills with water and is connected to channels leading to all terraced gardens below. The eastern road will take you to such a village with terraced gardens hanging above. Follow the road through and up again. That's where you will have a good opportunity to look at these gardens. In summer there are the pomegranates, figs, small lemons and even grapes. You can visit the terraced gardens at the western side after completing the tour around. The western gardens are well maintained, but the houses abandoned and ruined. Be careful to close any gates carefully as goats are keen to get in and would of course create havoc.   

Grapes at 2000+ metres

Our 'pulpit' (lower middle) sticking out into wadi Sa'ab.
The road continues northwards with great views across wadi Sa'ab below; another Grand Canyon, flanked by the steep cliffs of the Shuaiba and Natih limestones. That's where we were tempted to climb down to a natural great 'pulpit', perfectly flat topped, sticking out into the abyss, with vertical drops at three sides and connected by a narrow neck to the rock-wall behind. More difficult than the view from the road suggested with some too steep sides to negotiate safely, forcing us up higher towards the neck and from there climbing down again. Meanwhile it started raining a bit. Thunder had been threatening in the valleys below, but it almost seemed that the thunderstorm was stopped by the walls of rock.  Of course you don't want to be on an exposed ledge with lightening threatening. We therefore did not stay too long on the pulpit, climbing back to the car. By that time the thunderstorm had of course dissipated.

From here the road turns west again heading for the flat 'Ghadir Kital Al Hirad', high-up along the northwestern flank of the Jabal Shams massif. You will see Bedouin settlements along the way. Still with tents and traditionally built stone storage rooms, but little houses are being built in between. The new road clearly is changing the life of the Mountain people rapidly. In a few years there will be little left of the traditional way of life. For better or for worse, but certain and irreversible.

Keep an eye righ in front as there is the occasional view of Jabal Misht with its characteristic triangular shape and near vertical drop to the south.

If you follow the main rollercoaster road for some 10km you will get to Ghadir Farras. If you turn left into a secondary track you will get to the smaller Aqaba Saqba area. Both are good places to camp. Even in summer it remains nice cool and refreshing at night. You will undoubtedly hear a lot of birds and the socialising sounds of many crickets and cicads.

Clinging to the white veined 'zebra' rock.

The 'pulpit form above. Flat, like an aircraft carrier deck. Ready for takeoff into the empty void beyond......

Gahdir Farras, camping in the green, close to the wadi bed, close to a little pool. With a bit of rain one can easily imagine a small stream.

Grass and trees. Conifers and age-old junipers all around.

Impressive large conifer trees
A thank you to Charles Whyte for good company, celebrating his birthday on top of this part of the world.

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@ J. Schreurs June 2009